word craft


Give Me Some Space

If you think as I do, that the phys­i­cal book can be a form of art, then typog­ra­phy (a 1664 word) has been defined as, “The action or process of print­ing; espe­cial­ly the set­ting and arrange­ment of types and print­ing from them; typo­graph­i­cal exe­cu­tion; hence, the arrange­ment of words on a page,” is vital to the art of bookmaking. 

Begin­ning with Guten­berg, the type was set let­ter by let­ter, with the spac­ing (called lead­ing) between let­ters and words.  This had a vital impact on the eye.  If you have ever seen a page of beau­ti­ful­ly set hand type I think you will rec­og­nize it as, well, very beau­ti­ful to the eye. 

It is a fact that as I type these words on my com­put­er the typog­ra­phy is done for me.  Yes, I am giv­en a choice of spac­ing: “Nor­mal, Expand­ed, and Con­densed.”  I can make the let­ters bold.  I can also change the spac­ing between lines.  And my com­put­er gives me a fair­ly large choice of fonts. 

Caslon typeface
Caslon type­face [source: Wikipedia]

My own favorite font is an 18th-cen­tu­ry type called Caslon, named after William Caslon the Eng­lish­man who designed it in 1722. I find it clear, and grace­ful, with sub­tle elegance. 

You can see Caslon online, and even add it to your com­put­er fonts from a num­ber of sources. 

I can recall fond­ly a chat I once had with Kevin Henkes, about how we both liked to choose the font for the man­u­script we were com­pos­ing.  We agreed that, as we wrote, it made a dif­fer­ence.  I also admit, I’m not sure why. 

All of this is a pref­ace to a fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle I came upon in The Atlantic Mag­a­zine (May 2018) titled, “The Sci­en­tif­ic Case for Two Spaces After a Peri­od.” 

It appears that Skid­more College’s Depart­ment of Psy­chol­o­gy did a study and deter­mined that “All read­ers ben­e­fit from hav­ing two spaces after peri­ods.” The researcher, Rebec­ca John­son, said “Increased spac­ing [of text] has shown to help facil­i­tate pro­cess­ing in a num­ber of read­ing stud­ies remov­ing the spaces between words alto­geth­er dras­ti­cal­ly hurts our abil­i­ty to read flu­ent­ly while increas­ing the amount of space between words helps us process the text.” 

Let it be said, how­ev­er, that The Chica­go Man­u­al of Style and The Mod­ern Lan­guage Asso­ci­a­tion Style Man­u­al, opt for one space after the period. 

I did an exper­i­ment.  I took the com­put­er man­u­script of my cur­rent project and got the com­put­er to change the spac­ing of all my sen­tences from one space after the peri­od, to two. 

It took a mat­ter of seconds. 

To my eyes it did make a dif­fer­ence, mak­ing the text much eas­i­er to read. 

Two Spaces after a Period

Is this impor­tant?  No.  But in a world full of ghast­ly news, it’s delight­ful to debate: Two spaces or one after a period. 

Do weigh in. 

But for my part, if you hear me say, “Hey, pal, gimme some space,” you’ll know what I mean. 

1 thought on “Give Me Some Space”

  1. I find the art of typog­ra­phy fas­ci­nat­ing, but after spend­ing decades as an edi­tor, two spaces just looks: wrong. Love the post!


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