Fun_People Archive
31 Jan
Space Wars

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 100 17:50:14 -0800
To: Fun_People
Precedence: bulk
Subject: Space Wars

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-

[At least the good guys won this little skirmish...  -psl]

Forwarded-by: Nev Dull <>
Forwarded-by: Tim Ruddick <>
Forwarded-by: Phil Agre <>

[I enclose a sample of the typographical passions that I stirred up
among RRE readers by taking sides in the one-space-versus-two-spaces-
after-a-period wars.  Forwarded with permission and reformatted to 70
columns -- but with the spaces unaltered.]

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From: Susan Kirkland <>
Subject: RE:  #'s after .

I went to art college 1971-75 before computers came into my
field--advertising design.  I received an extensive education in
kerning (space between letters) line spacing, calculating copy
characters and keeping things square eventhough one may be totally
inept.  My first job included actually setting headlines on a
two-finger grip fontsetter where I viewed my headline through a
shotgun type sight.  Nothing taught me more about letter spacing than
setting those headlines and employing the information I'd learned
in school about how people read type by the negative area, not
the positive area.  Play with the word --The-- when you have time.
You'll learn a lot.

When the computer entered things, one of the first cliches I heard
was, "The first sign of a novice on the keyboard is 2 spaces after
the period."  That's bullshit generated by some programmer who decided
his magic code would automatically correctly space type--afterall,
he'd put kerning in.  Well, any professional designer will tell you
that most professional page layout programs aren't very professional
at all.  Designers think in terms of line length for copy blocks
(like, any line longer than 18 picas will tax your readers eye muscles
swooping from left to right, so don't do it if your copy is long and
you want to keep them) yet page layout programs demand margins before
you even open a file--making me work assbackwards .  There are lots
of little giveaways like this that show me programmers used less
than well educated designers as source information when writing these
things--the same programmers dictating to me, a type professional,
that I need use only one space after the period.  That doesn't work
for me because the same program that's geared to minimize the space
between a W and an A doesn't seem to know the difference when there's
a period/space between them; then there's no separation of sentences,
at least not enough to signify the end of a thought.  I think these
are the same people in Universities nationwide that don't see much
difference between journalism and advertising or desktop publishing
and design. Nothing makes me angrier than places like the University
of Houston letting their silly journalism people spend hundreds of
thousands of dollars producing brochures and catalogues that look like
a high school year book office put them out when there are qualified
designers out there looking for work.

So I love to hear how double spacing after a period signals a novice.
You keep double spacing, Phil.

Susan Kirkland
Director of Advertising
Maxxim Medical, Inc.


[...] I find double spacing between sentences helpful in some
monospaced fronts, so perhaps you're justified of those grounds.
(Though with the font I'm looking at now it just looks like you've
poked holes here and there in the text. :)

Here's what Robert Bringhurst's _Typographic_Manual_of_Style_ has to
say on the subject. (A book that should be required reading in school)

<< In the nineteenth century, which was a dark and inflationary age in
typography and type design, many compositors were encouraged to stuff
extra space between sentences. Generation of twentieth-centry typists
were then taught to do the same, by hitting the spacebar twice after
every period. Your typing as well as your typesetting with benifit
from unlearning this quaint Victorian habit. As a general rule, no
more than a single space is required after a period , a colon or
any other mark of puctuation. Larger spaces (e.g., en spaces) are
*themselves* punctuation.

The rule is usually altered, however, when setting classical Latin and
Greek, romanized Sanskrit, phonetics or other kinds of texts in which
sentences begin with lowercase letters. In the absence of a capital, a
full en space (M/2) between sentences will generally be welcome.  >>
                                                pp. 28-30

information design? what's that?

From: Susan Kirkland <>
Subject: Re: two spaces

I don't know who Robert Bringhurst is, but one of the reasons
compositors in the nineteenth century added an extra space after the
period was during the dreaded quest for justified copy--the lowest
form of typesetting and mostly just used in newspapers now.  That
way, they were assured most of the extra space would end up between
sentences first, between words second and, God forbid, between
characters last.

Seen justified type lately?
Bill    Clinton    said   he   n e v e r  i n h a l e d.

Both the en and em were created to fill the empty spaces in the hot
metal type forms.  We don't have those problems to solve anymore, but
people still use en and em to label space size.

But those are all minor details.  Ralph is speaking of typography
from a strictly technical point of view; (the mechanics) like buying
clothes off the rack.  I'm talking about sensitive typographic
aesthetics; (fine tuning the delicate nuances) something that can only
be had from a tailor.

When typography first went from hot to cold--output by some machine
called a Compugraphic--where the machine would put font disks in front
of photographic paper and expose each character (very fast); you could
select machine kerning or have it composed.  Composing involved the
typographer reviewing the first run, marking it up for hand kerning
and sending it back.  Even today, in Pagemaker (the layout program
I prefer), the new option of professional kerning is available in
the menu.  But I frequently adjust my type by holding down option
command and using the arrow keys between individual characters.
Most professional designers do--probably no desktop publishers do.

The point is--I'm a master designer and getting flak from a secretary
about putting 2 spaces after a period is like telling Chagal there's a
little too much blue in the left corner.

Though the machines have limitations, some technological and some
based on constraints that were determined by the source designers
the programmers used when first writing the programs, computers have
allowed me to concentrate in visual terms instead of mathematical
terms when working.  This is a real boon because as you know,
switching from different sides of the brain slows things considerably.
Also, the technical production quality of my work has not deteriorated
as I got older--which is also a major benefit.  I just can't do
anything less than square--thank God.

I love talking about this.  It's exciting to talk about type.

From: Susan Kirkland <>
Subject:  Re: two spaces

And besides--

Expert kerning is determined by weighing the negative space of one
character against the negative space of the next, seeing how the two
interact and then balancing this combination against the rest of the
letters in the word, making it as tight as possible without losing
balance within the word.  Tight is important because it encapsulates
the individual character's negative space better, allowing you to read
faster.  But you knew that, right?

Knowing this, and relying on the mechanical letter spacing available
in today's code, is it sensible to arbitrarily decide it is silly to
put 2 spaces after a period in something that is so haphazard?  No,
just give me good separation where a group of words ends--whether you
know how to kern your type properly or not.  Now there's a good rule.


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