Our View: Word nerds flock like flies to new double-spacing study (editorial)
May 8, 2018
As you might imagine, people who work in the newspaper business can be pretty nerdy about grammar, spelling and spacing.
That's why a recent story in the Washington Post has been shared a good bit in the world of word nerds.
The gist of the article is contained in the title: "One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong."
In the beginning, people working on typewriters were taught to put two spaces between sentences. Like this.
That convention has long been discarded in the newspaper business. Here, the rules command just one space between sentences. Like this.
Still, people who grow up writing in non-news environments often still use the two-space convention.
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Many also double-space, sometimes between paragraphs, and other
times between every line.
The Washington Post story refers to several studies over the years that have come to different conclusions about the value of double-spacing. The most recent study, done by researchers at Skidmore College, tried to come up with a definitive answer, using at least one technique with a bit of "A Clockwork Orange" feel: clamping study participants' heads in place, and recording their eye movements.
The result came down in favor of the double space.
Unfortunately, the test subjects were reading in a type face that mimics old typewriters.
That sounds a bit like conducting a study with a predetermined result in mind.
So this grammar-nerd debate isn't likely put to rest. Neither is the long-running debate over the Oxford comma. That's the practice of putting a comma after every item in a list: Dinner featured steak, baked potatoes, and salad. In newspaper-land, that list omits one comma: The happy-hour menu featured tacos, egg rolls and plenty of beer.
As long as there are grammar nerds, there will be vigorous, nerdy debate over these things. One study won't put those debates to rest.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.