To Double Space or Not
I was going to go into a huge rant and explanation about double spacing and single spacing after a period. I was going to research the origins of it and attempt to explain why we went from double to single spacing because of the printing press, typewriters, word processors, and the internet.
There's a large faction of writers who will double space because that's how they learned to do it when they learned how to type. These people, for whatever reason, will die before giving up that extra space, even if the word processors and software add additional spacing after a period. Maybe there's some psychological nanosecond that allows their brain to refocus during that double key stroke. Or, maybe the thought of change instills so much fear that they find themselves incapable of thought, thus killing all creativity.
Out of envy or pure laziness, I will instead re-post what Tom Lee had to say about it:
I'll take Manjoo's word that all typographers like a single space between sentences. I'm actually pretty sympathetic to arguments from authority, being the big-state-loving paternalist that I am. But, with apologies to friends and colleagues of mine who care passionately about this stuff, I lost my patience with the typographically-obsessed community when they started trying to get me to pay attention to which sans-serif fonts were being used anachronistically on Mad Men.
I love you guys, but you're crazy. On questions of aesthetic preference there's no particular reason that normal people should listen to a bunch of geeky obsessives who spend orders of magnitude more time on these issues than average. It's like how you probably shouldn't listen to me when I tell you not to use .doc files or that you might want to consider a digital audio player with Ogg Vorbis support. I strongly believe those things, but even I know they're pointless and arbitrary for everyone who doesn't consider "Save As..." an opportunity for political action.
Nor should we assume that just because typographers believe earnestly in the single space that their belief is held entirely in good faith. They're drunk on the awesome power of their proportional fonts, and sure of the cosmic import of the minuscule kerning decisions that it is their lonely duty to make. Of course they don't want lowly typists exercising opinions about letter spacing. Those people aren't qualified to have opinions!
(For what it's worth, I don't think you rabble should be using Flash or Silverlight or anything other than plain text in your emails. You can't be trusted with it! And, not that this motivates me or typographers at all of course (we just want what's best for you), but when you do such things it makes my job slightly harder.)
Manjoo's argument about beauty, like all such arguments, is easy enough to dismiss: I disagree. I find it easier to read paragraphs that are composed of sentences separated by two spaces. Perhaps this is because I, like most technologists, spend most of my time working with (quite lovely!) fixed-width fonts for practical reasons. But there's also a deeper beauty to the two space rule -- a sort of mathematical beauty. Let me explain.
Consider the typical structure of writing. Letters are assembled into words, which turn into phrases, which are arranged into sentences -- at the same time being assigned to speakers, a neat trick -- which are then combined into paragraphs.
It's a chemical process, a perfect and infinitely flexible hierarchical system that should command our admiration. Being able to rationally examine, disassemble and interrogate the final product is a mark of the system's beauty. Anything less is settling for a sort of holistic mysticism.
It's disrespectful to let writing's constituent elements bleed into one another through imprecise demarcations. If you see me "making mistakes with comma placement", please rest assured that it's deliberate. In most cases the comma doesn't belong to the phrase delimited by the quotation marks that enclose it. Placing an exclamation point or question mark to the left or right of a close-quote is a weighty decision! That we violate the atomic purity of quotations with injected commas is an outrage.
I'll just add this: You might think it's a crazy waste of time to spend this amount of time on something like a space after a period, but if you send me something to post or edit and there's a double space after the periods, I'm not even going to look it at. Like I said, I'm lazy and if you can't abide by the style guide or the site's formatting, you're lazy too. And yeah, defiance and tenacity are nice traits to have, but they can easily turn into defects and arrogance.