Double Space, I Hardly Knew Ye

I’m always afraid I’m going to be found out.

I’m that guy in the movies who’s walking backward against the current and the only thing saving me from annihilation is that somehow the other berks in the matrix haven’t scented me out yet. I’m covered in zombie entrails walking amongst the walking dead, counting on the smell of dead things to keep me incognito. I’m the wolf covered in tufts of cotton, only invisible because the sheep haven’t bothered to look my way.

I’m making it up as I go in every facet of my life. As a husband? Yeah, I’m five years into that and have no idea what I’m doing. As a father? Don’t make me laugh. What parent really knows what he is doing? It’s my baseline goal to make sure the kid doesn’t grow up to be a mass-murderer, anything beyond that is gravy. As a teacher? Let’s just say I fear for the future. Even now, as I write this blarg post, I’m inescapably aware that in no way am I qualified to be writing the things I’m writing about, whether in my novel or here on this lonely corner of the web. I don’t know what I’m doing.

The only reason, as Tommy Lee Jones said in Men in Black, that I’m able to go on with my life is that most of the time, I do not know about it. There are probably better ways to write, but I am merrily unaware. Doubtless there are better parenting methods, but mine is working well enough for me so far. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. And I sure as sharknado thought I was doing a decent job as an English teacher.

The problem with living happily in ignorance is that sooner or later, somebody will point out the ways in which you never knew you were wrong, as evidenced by any nimrod who’s anti-vaccinations will be glad to tell you. Even now, this very instant, I am struggling with a bit of information I’ve just learned which is shaking up my very existence, fighting against the habits and automatic thinking which have been a part of me for over twenty years.

Seriously, how did I make it this far in my life not knowing that you only press space once after a period?

I’ve been typing with the double-spaced period for ages. AGES. I learned in my keyboarding class in middle school that a period gets two spaces behind it, and I’ve been typing that way ever since. Then today, it’s pointed out to me that two spaces after a period is nigh-archaic. I ask my wife who writes for a living, and in typical I-can’t-believe-I’m-married-to-this-idiot fashion, she says, “obviously. How did you not know that?” Somehow in twenty years I’ve missed the memo on this and nobody ever bothered to tell me.

Recently I heard a story about a guy who went into Home Depot to buy a new toilet and asked if, since he lived alone, he could just get a toilet without the seat. He lived by himself, no women in the house, so no need to put the seat down. Innocently, a worker asked him how he would be able to go #2, and the guy said, “what do you mean?” After a bit of embarrassing questioning, it came out that the guy had never sat on a toilet seat in his life, he always just squatted over the bowl. Certainly it never hurt anybody. He just never learned the right way and continued on, living his life in the complete wrong way until by mistake somebody set him straight.

So it is with me and the period. The humble period, of all things. Only the most common punctuation mark in the written language. Only the simple symbol of the end of a sentence, the building block of the paragraph, and therefore of all language itself. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had to hit backspace, in this paragraph alone, to go back and erase one of the extra spaces I’m inserting as automatically as breathing.

The double space is a habit it’s going to take me months to unlearn. I wish I had a time machine so that I could go back, find my sixth-grade typing teacher, and punch her in the neck.

What’s next? Will I find out I’ve been spelling my own name wrong? Mispronouncing the simplest of words? Wearing my shoes on the wrong feet?

7 thoughts on “Double Space, I Hardly Knew Ye

  1. What??!! I didn’t know this either. I have been told by several people that it was two spaces after a period. I wrote for an online magazine a few years back and I was always in trouble because I had some how forgotten to double space after a period. When did this single space after a period thing become…a thing? Ugh, now I have to go fix everything I am working on now.


  2. I just learned this a few weeks ago. I was corrected by my teenager. Then I did a poll online, and even teachers chimed in. My journalist friend said it changed years ago.


  3. I’m a double spacer as well. Good to know I wasn’t the only one who had no idea it was no longer a thing. Thanks for the heads up!


  4. As a 70-something person, I remember double-space-after-the-period. Luckily, I discovered find-and-replace so I can wait until I’m done typing and fix all those age-defining errors at once.


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