I’m not much of a ranter—probably because I’m rarely so opinionated about a given topic. But, every now and then, something happens that ruffles my feathers and drives me up the wall. Most designers tend to be irritated by bad kerning or Comic Sans abuse, but honestly, I’ve gotten over those long ago. So, what’s my pet peeve, you ask?
Simple—the double-space after a period (or full stop, for my British friends).
I get a lot of eye-roll reactions from people who think it isn’t a big deal, but as a designer who’s had to deal with laying out client-supplied copy riddled with the silly things, it definitely does matter. Double spaces in large bodies of text can create unintentional gaps called rivers which are distracting to the eye, especially when reading for an extended period of time.
I once did a job for a client where the supplied copy I needed to paste into the layout was full of not only double spaces, but also triple and even quadruple spaces. Yes, that’s right—four spaces after a period. Not even a find-and-replace could catch everything. What’s worse is that after I stripped them out and sent it back for approval, a second round of revised copy would come back with every double, triple, and quadruple space added back in. A disaster.
Before you say that websites strip them out, that’s not true. Plenty of content management systems preserve the double space when publishing content, and even Twitter’s website now preserves them in tweets. (I like the line break support, though.)
Some people say the double-space is a relic from the days of the typewriter where it was often required to tap the space key twice to make sentence spacing more legible. Eventually the habit was adopted by computer users, too, even though modern fonts support sentence spacing not supported by the typewriter. It’s still taught in many typing classes today, resulting in a rather large number of people who are convinced that it’s the right thing to do.
A person once tried to defend the double-space by presenting me with information of what some publishers used to do back in the 1800s. That’s cool, except that this is the 21st century, and the single-space convention was adopted by publishers many years ago. I challenge you to open any modern book, newspaper, or magazine, and observe what you see.
Are you typesetting a book that emulates the look of the original Sherlock Holmes novels? Sure, go ahead and use the double-space. Are you designing a poster that’s meant to look like Peggy Olson’s copy for “The Rejuvenator”? Fill your boots, I say! In these cases, designing with the double-space can be used as an extra detail to bring more authenticity and reflect the period in which it would have appeared.
But guys, I’m begging you. It’s 2013. Why would you waste valuable Twitter characters on such a useless thing? Try to break the bad habit, okay?
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