Life and typography: how to make a change

Chris Slattery

This is a test. Test. Test.

Okay, that was extremely difficult for me. If you didn’t catch it, or the formatting in the newspaper has corrected my flaw previously, I did not double-space after each period. It is something that has been instinctually infused within my writerly being since the sixth grade and I have used it everywhere — papers, texts, I’ve even caught myself doing it while handwriting.

It has served me well, giving me that extra line or so when I need to stretch a essay, and it removes confusion if I end a sentence with an acronym or Dr. or some other non-sentence-ending period. When you write a specific way for over a decade, it becomes muscle memory, but it turns out that typographers frown upon double-spacing after periods. And while it astounded me that there are people out there who study fonts and punctuation (and get paid), I focused more on the fact that one of my typing habits was not acceptable by “the professionals.” What, are we not using apostrophes in contractions now, either?!

It’s like that day when mom and dad said that Santa is still real, but he’s just not coming to this house anymore all over again.

This is probably boring to everyone who already single-spaces (or for those who think that grammar and formatting is for nerds), but it’s a metaphor for the minute obstacles we must overcome in life. We all strive to better ourselves — make resolutions, set goals, buy car insurance — and usually these aspirations are so big that the mere thought of accomplishing them is daunting. Can one person really go from zero days at the gym to all days at the gym? Doubtful.

Instead, thinking smaller helps. Take a vitamin, do your reading, and for the love of God, wash your hands before leaving the bathroom. Not to be crass with that last bit, but really, people, we’re not 16 years old anymore.

See, I know that my problem seems to be a single space, no big deal. However, it represents that core fundamental belief that I feel the need to change. No one gets hurt when I strike that spacebar a second time (unless I’m writing hate mail, in which case each space is metaphorically filled with scathing resentment), and I suspect that I could go throughout the rest of my life without changing this attribute and be okay. But the sense of accomplishment I plan to feel, sometime down the road, when I realize that I’ve broken a decade’s-worth of a bad habit, will be immensely gratifying.

Sad? Yes. Pointless? Perhaps. Single-spacing will be reminiscent of a depressed arrow without a tip.

So while the jury is still out on Oxford commas (look it up), a decision has been made in terms of spacing after periods. It’s one step at a time anyway. Just because I move one box out of an apartment, it doesn’t make me a mover, and until I start dispensing salt out of the top of my head, I won’t consider myself a shaker.

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