Monday, June 13, 2011

The Dreaded Double Space

Occasionally, something slips under my radar and I don't realize how important it is until much later. Heck, sometimes I don't even know it exists until confronted and even then, my normal reaction is, "huh?"

Thus beings the epic tale of the Dreaded Double Space.

For the sake of time and, to be honest, interest, let's just say I learned to add two spaces after a period. I never took a typing class, so where it developed I have no idea. In the years since, writing became an interest, then a hobby, then something I actually got serious about. To the point of allowing people outside my family to actually read pages. 

It was then that a certain author from a certain state "waaaaaaay up there" on the map pointed out the double spaces. My reaction was, "huh?"

After doing a little research, I realized this is an issue that I completely missed. Not only is she clued in, but so is most of the writing community. Farhad Manjoo even wrote a very detailed (and opinionated) post about it on Slate. I'd never known why people did it, I just assumed it was The Way Things Were.

Apparently that was not correct.

Fast forward to very recently and I realized that every single page of every single story of mine were double-spaced. There was an exponential learning curve to the point of being educated on the magic of "Find/Replace All" when it comes to spacing. So far, there's been little hemorrhaging, but it's still early.

So what's the lesson here?  Well first, there are trends in publishing that we, as people who kinda' like the publishing world, really should keep tabs on. Whether it's the number of spaces after a period or the debate between Courier and Times New Roman, agents and publishers have certain expectations. Maybe they prefer .doc, .pdf, or .rtf. as an attachment or maybe they like a hard copy so they can scribble all over them. Keeping your radars tuned to What Is Happening is important.

The second lesson? Learn your writing software. Otherwise you might wind up writing a story in Helvetica with three spaces after the period.

Imagine trying to reformat that bad boy.


  1. I also learned to add two spaces after a period. And now I find myself in need of a paper bag in which to breathe.

  2. @ MJ - Exactly! Who knew the formatting world would be so complicated? Thank goodness you can buy paper bags in bulk.

  3. I also read that Slate article a while back while prepping the print edition of the book.

    That said, I still write my stories in Courier because I like the "old school" look.

    But I now only use a single space after the period.

    And I send off stories to market re-formatted in whatever font the guidelines indicate.

  4. That writer from that far north state also informed me of the double-space quandary I'd written myself into. Thank goodness for find->replace!

  5. @Ace - I write in Couier New as well, but submit stff in TNR unless otherwise noted.

    @'Bugz - And thank goodness for friends in "northerly" places, eh?