If you want to annoy an editor, here’s a surefire way to do it: Use double spaces between your sentences.
In other words, you have one sentence. And then you press the spacebar twice before you start your next sentence. Just like this.
Such a simple act, right? Yet that simple act can easily send editors into red-faced conniptions. At absolute best, they’ll roll their eyes and sigh several times over your uncultured little faux pas. And you don't want to know the worst.
Think I’m making this up? Don’t trust me even though I’m an editor myself?
That's fine. Check these out, starting with a 2011 Slate piece by Farhad Manjoo:
Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly and inarguably wrong.
That last word? The one that’s italicized for special emphasis? That was his editorial choice, not mine.
A year later, Brian Klems was writing this about single-spaced sentences for The Writer’s Dig:
The point is, it’s not only widely accepted, it’s expected that you use only one space after a period. Sorry two-spaces, it’s time to make the switch.
Again, his italics, not mine.
And even the perfectly polite Grammar Girl put it this way in 2015:
If you learned to type on a typewriter, you’re going to hate what I say next: Do not put two spaces after a period. Don’t do it. Just use one.
If Grammar Girl can get that pointed, then the one-space-between-sentences writing rule is probably a big deal.
And it is.
Okay, maybe it’s somewhat in our detail-driven, anal editorial heads. But here’s the story behind this too-often contentious writing rule anyway.
Once upon a time, there was a land that developed a special machine to make writers’ lives easier. Instead of having to legibly handwrite words, sentences and paragraphs, this machine made worries such as bad handwriting and writer’s cramp completely go away.
Fondly known as a typewriter, the contraption in question allowed every capital I to look like a capital I instead of a lowercase L, and every lowercase O to look like a lowercase O instead of a potential lowercase A.
It was a beautiful thing.
There was only one issue. (Actually, there were a lot of issues, but that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this particular story.) Because of its somewhat bulky, mechanical nature, the typewriter didn’t always make it clear when there was a space between sentences.
But that issue was easily taken care of by simply adding a second space. And so every writer lived happily ever after.
At least they should have.
One fateful day though, the personal computer was born, which made evil editors everywhere smile while innocent little writers quaked in fear. Because, as the typewriter became more and more antiquated, so did the necessity of using double spaces between sentences.
Thanks to the PC, it suddenly seemed quite clear where readers were allowed to pause a fraction of a second before moving on to the next written thought.
That’s why evil editors everywhere decided to eliminate double spaces and institute the single-space rule wherever they could!
No longer would –
Editor’s Note: We interrupt this riveting story because it’s really not riveting at all.
Suffice it to say that double spaces just aren’t necessary any more, which is actually a good thing for you writers.
It means that you’ll save countless nanoseconds while writing out your articles, reports, books and other copy… all because you no longer have to press that spacebar twice.
So on behalf of evil editors everywhere, you’re welcome. We do what we can.