The Angry Grammarian

By Jeffrey Barg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 31, 2007

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I'm a graphic designer, and I say that since nobody uses typewriters anymore, there should be only one space after a period. Fonts are pre-kerned to give extra space, and two spaces is ugly. My brother, who's a writer and editor, says two spaces is proper. Who is right?

Google "two spaces," and you'll be shocked by just how many people are really, really worked up over the one vs. two spaces debate. I guess it's a universal thing, and it's not all that complicated, so it's easy for people to get opinionated without too much effort.

A million years ago, when people used typewriters, every character took up the same amount of space, so two spaces were needed to help set off sentences. It made the text flow better, and was easier on the eyes.

But now that we have pre-kerning (or, to use a similarly inside-baseball term, proportional spacing), two spaces is obsolete. The eyes are drawn to the gaping white space between the sentences rather than to the sentences themselves.

As for what's "proper"? Telling you that the godless communist bastards who write the AP Stylebook (which sets the rules for newspapers) abide one space won't convince you that it's "proper."

But even the most chaste, hardened prescriptivist can't deny the stodginess of those old-school bastions Chicago Manual of Style, APA and MLA ... all of which now finally say one space is the way to go.

What's the difference between historic and historical?

Something historical happened in the past--it relates to history. Something historic, on the other hand, is simply some important happening--usually in the past, though it could be in the present or even the future.

The Iraq War, for example, isn't at all historical, since it's going on right now, and will be for some time to come. The 2008 presidential election, meanwhile, while it'll be historic in its long-anticipated closure on the Bush era, probably won't be historic as far as the Iraq War goes, since none of the frontrunners, Republican or Democrat, will be getting us out of there anytime soon.

Hear Steven Wells vs. Liz Spikol in the Angry Grammarian Podcast Quiz-Bang Throwdown. Subscribe free (and learn how to be a future contestant) at

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