The complete idiot's guide to typing...

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WRONG: The bird is beautiful.  Look at the bird's coloring.  See the bird fly.  The bird flies high in the sky.  Look at the bird's nest.  See the baby birds.  The baby birds want to eat.  See how their mouths are open?  I wish I were a bird so I could fly.  Do you want to fly?

RIGHT: The bird is beautiful. Look at the bird's coloring. See the bird fly. The bird flies high in the sky. Look at the bird's nest. See the baby birds. They want to eat. See how their mouths are open? I wish I were a bird so I could fly. Do you want to fly?

WHY?

(Tim) By now, it's likely there are over 4,000,000 words on Baylyblog and I've written, edited, or read all but a very tiny fraction of them. Edited?

Yes, edited—including our good readers' comments. At times I correct spelling and some of the more obvious typos. Too, I remove spaces.

Why remove spaces? Because many have the habit of treating their computer like a typewriter and it mucks up  readability...

For instance, look at the double hyphens in the paragraph just above. They should be an em dash but I've not yet learned how to trade them in for one here in Typepad. Thus, when I compose a post you get two hyphens where you should get an em dash. Sorry about that—it looks bad, doesn't it?

Speaking of looking bad, it would be a nice Thanksgiving gift to all of us if every last one of you stopped adding two character spaces at the end of sentences, following the terminal punctuation mark. To paraphrase the title of an excellent little book, "your computer is not a typewriter."

Back in the day, typewriters produced the original text and that text was typeset before being read. Then it was proper to do all sorts of things it's no longer proper to do on a computer—which, you'll remember, is not a typewriter. Really, it would be good for everyone to think of their computer as a typeset machine and type accordingly. Which is the entire premise behind Robin Williams little classic (up there near Strunk and White's, The Elements of Style) written back in the late eighties and originally titled, The Mac Is Not a Typewriter. Now Williams has added another version titled for all you Apple phobics, so take your pick.

But do pick one or the other, buy, and read it. It's about as short as The Elements of Style, and every last one of your readers will thank you for the changes in your typing habits it produces—including typing only one space after terminal punctuation marks at the end of sentences.

Another absolute necessity for church offices producing documents to be read by many is the Bible of style question this side of the Atlantic, The Chicago Manual of Style. Again, we have one at our secretary's desk and I have another in my office. Here's what the Chicago Manual says concerning spacing at the end of a sentence:

2.12 Line spacing and word spacing. ...A single character space, not two spaces, should be left after periods at the ends of sentences (both in manuscript and in final, published form) and after colons. ...No extra space should be left after the final punctuation at the end of a paragraph; the hard return should follow the punctuation immediately. (If you cannot remove all such extra spaces, the publisher or typesetter will delete them.)

6.11 Space between sentences. In typeset matter, one space, not two (in other words, a regular word space), follows any mark of punctuation that ends a sentence, whether a period, a colon, a question mark, an exclamation point, or closing quotation marks.

So why do many continue to add two spaces after a mark of punctuation terminating a sentence? Because they haven't learned that their Mac, that their PC is not a typewriter. In the old days, a document didn't go straight from an individual's keyboard to hundreds or thousands of readers. There was always a typesetter in between, replacing two hypens with an em dash and two spaces at the end of a sentence with only one. Now, though, when a man posts or comments on a blog, for instance, it's published immediately. Thus the need for every individual at a keyboard (and often even those thumbing their smartphones) to realize they're not typing on a typewriter, but typesetting, and they should act accordingly.

So again, please do us all the favor of typing only one space following your sentences' terminal punctuation mark. And if you want to know other ways of being kind to your readers whether your text will be read projected on a wall, on a computer screen, or on paper, buy a copy of The Elements of Style ,The Mac Is Not a Typewriter , and The Chicago Manual of Style. And use them.