Pari’s post on Monday and a question I was asked by a friend last week got me thinking about writing rules. Not the ones that Pari talked about, but the more mundane rules, the technical rules.
The question I was asked (and Steve was on the email, too, as it was from an old college friend of ours) was to settle a bet our friend had with her daughter. Her daughter had come home from school after getting a report back with a note from her teacher that said it was unnecessary for her to put two spaces after periods. My friend found this odd. She clearly remembered learning back when she was in school that you always put two spaces after the period. So she wanted to know who was right, and hence the question to Steve and I.
I remember that rule, too. Probably the most important – and impactful – class I took during my junior high experience (though I didn’t know it at the time) was a summer school typing class. I went from a hunt and peck typist to a touch typist, and have never looked back. As someone who writes everyday, that’s been HUGE in my life. It has allowed me to write tons faster than I would have the old way. Along with learning to type without looking, I also learned the two spaces after a period rule.
For well after I got out of college I would dutifully double tap the space bar before I’d start a new sentence. That is until one day a co-worker said to me, “You don’t have to do that anymore.” At first I didn’t believe her, but she then explained to me why, and from that point forward, only a single tap for me.
You see, in today’s modern computerized world, you don’t have to double space after a period. Why? Well, in the typewriter/typesetting days (think everything pre-late 80s) type was pretty exclusively what is called mono-type. That is each letter takes up the same amount of space as the others. In other words a W would occupy a similar sized area as an I. In the monotype world, putting two spaces after a period helps readers know when a new sentence starts. There are still a few monotypes used on computers. The most common being Courier.
In the computer world, most typefaces are what’s called proportional type or fonts. In these the W and I do NOT take up the same space. They take the proportional space they need. Times and Helvetica and any number of others are examples of these.
With proportional type you do not, and should not, double space after the period. In addition, even in this computer age, it’s basically unnecessary to double space even when using Courier. Of course, if you’re still using a typewriter, tap-tap.
Most of you probably already knew this, but perhaps didn’t know the reason. Or perhaps you did. Either way, it was on my mind and I though would be a good idea to throw out there.
A few other manuscript guidelines…I won’t say rules because I’m sure there are variations…that may or may not be helpful:
• Make your margins one inch all the way around
• Double space your manuscript. (There are exceptions I allow myself, such as when I’m mimicking a newspaper article or emails or the like.)
• Start each chapter at least a quarter of the way down on the page. Nothing in stone on this one.
• Number your pages either in the footer or header. I use the upper right of the header, but I know others who use the middle of the footer…no hard/fast rule here.
• Don’t put THE END at the end. You’re reader will know.
• There are exceptions to everything
So what do you think? Got any guidelines you’d like to share?
A little PR: I was interviewed on BlogTalkRadio earlier this week. It was a lot of fun, and if you’re interested in listening to it, click here. Let me know what you think!