Sigh: the battle over whether to use one space after a period or two continues to rage. The issue has long been settled by typesetters and style guides, and even forcibly by web browsers themselves, which typically collapse all whitespace between characters to a single space.

Nevertheless, purists, loyalists, and typists of all sort continue to kvetch about it–many of them admitting that they simply can’t give up doing what they were trained to do. And so, the matter has now come to the attention of the highest authority in the land: Miss Manners. What? Yes. And since she does hold strong opinions about communication media in other situations (thank you notes must be hand written!) perhaps it’s not entirely unreasonable that she weigh in here:

Dear Miss Manners: I’ve just been informed that only one space is needed after a period, but having learned to type on a typewriter, this confused me. Apparently (note, I’m still putting in two spaces), computer fonts no longer require two spaces after a period, but if you (whoever that may be) are typing on a typewriter, you should continue to do so?

Gentle Reader: Ordinarily, Miss Manners handles only those problems that are truly about etiquette. This is less of a limitation than one may think, considering that she defines etiquette as all human social behavior.

Her answer is that while it is true that a computer does not require double spaces between sentences, you should continue to use two spaces on the typewriter. Partly this has to do with tradition. But mostly it has to do with the fact that anyone still using a typewriter has been at it too long to be retrained.

(Check out the letter above this one, too, where she makes a plug for voting polite candidates into office.)


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