Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Typical Typography?

When I was in high school, I took a course on typing.  It was in the "business skills" area of the high school, tucked into a corner on the second or third floor.  The center was a suite of classrooms of which I only ever entered two.  Those two were the so-called typing labs, filled with electronic typewriters and monochrome computers.  On the other side of the isolated hallway were the classrooms used for the academic business courses, but I never had any of those on my schedules.  Even now, I can't quite remember what they look like; it's a noticeable omission from a building that I spent four years wandering around for months at a time. 

I had spent some time learning typing years before.  One of the programs my parents had purchased for our IBM PS/2 at home was "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing".  I don't know who Mrs. Beacon was, but the cover showed a smiling black woman with her head raised towards a high and faraway horizon.  I assumed she somehow worked with Harriet Tubman on the underground railroad, so great was this icon's seeming gravity and importance.

In the typing lab, we alternated between typing gibberish (ue9dm38fnt693k*j3#) and typing practical excerpts ("John looked over and saw that his beautiful wife was about to break wind in the presence of the archbishop.").  One of the things that was drilled into us was that there should always be two spaces placed after a period.

Now, everything is higgilty-piggilty.

According to most style manuals now, it is considered more proper to only place one space after a period.  I've tried to do this, but my body revolts and I have violent compulsion attacks like Jack Nicholson from "As Good As It Gets": I must click that space bar twice between sentences!  I just can't stand when I don't. Look, there was one right back there.  Look how it just sits there being all "smaller than the other gaps".  I decry it!

Granted, I'm stuck in my ways.  Most of my resistance to this has to do with it being old habit.  For years, I was marked down with dreaded RED PEN if I put only a single space in.  I understand that it was essential when we had fixed kerning typesets and is no longer regarded as important now that most typing fonts adapt.

Yet, it's still about clarity to me.  Two spaces makes it obvious where the end of the sentence is, because there is no gap equal in size.  And what about after abbreviations (that is, periods in the middle of a sentence).  If I say that Mr. Tomkins wants something, is it only the capital letters that indicate whether or not I'm ending a sentence?  And what if I'm speaking of a particular governor, with the improbable name of "Unless"?  After all, Gov. Unless looks pretty much the same when I simply say Gov. Unless I start over a sentence, nobody can tell.


In an unrelated note, I'm particularly far-too-proud of the title of this entry which is a sort of audio-only pun.

1 comment:

  1. I just recently relived the old finger agility and knuckle dexterity typing challenges by finding a typing game on Steam. When presented with the calibration test (to judge my typing for determining the game's difficulty level), I was tasked with typing complete sentences. I, too, quickly noticed that they only placed one space after each sentence! Whaaaaaat?!

    I did not give it much more thought. My sole objective was to flex my typing muscles. What greater test of practical skill is there?

    A perpetual battle between speed and accuracy fought on a merciless plastic keyboard!