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Re: [Groff] space width

From: Clarke Echols
Subject: Re: [Groff] space width
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2014 19:46:24 -0700
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:16.0) Gecko/20121011 Thunderbird/16.0.1

I prefer the wider spacing between sentences because it's easier to
read.  You can see the wider spacing and make fewer errors from not
realizing there was an end-of-sentence, thus helping comprehension.

There are some situations where I'd like to be able to adjust spacing
between letters (mainly in titles and headlines for commercial copy)
for special effects.  I suppose I could force it by putting \h'...'
between characters, but that's a pain.  I haven't found a way to do
that in groff, though it's easy in cascading style sheets for


On 01/25/2014 04:15 PM, Dave Kemper wrote:
On 11/18/13, Tadziu Hoffmann <address@hidden> wrote:
In the original troff (according to the Troff User's Manual)
a space was nominally 1/3 em and a thinspace was 1/6 em,
thus half a normal space.  In groff's TR font, a space
is nominally 1/4 em, but a thinspace is still only 1/6 em.
Isn't that strange?

I thought of this two-month-old post when I found, a lengthy article that
exhaustively documents that until the early to mid 20th century,
standard typesetting practice was to put more space between sentences
than between words.  After refuting the arguments of those who dispute
that basic fact, the author goes on to speak of the possible reasons
that the sentence space has typically come to be the same as the word
space over the course of the past century:

      Here, there seems to be no direct historical account, but there are
      two theories often given.  First, there is the obvious benefit to
      production cost that comes with reduced spacing.  Less whitespace
      means less paper, which means fewer pages, which means reduced
      costs.  Margins became smaller around this time, and standard
      interword spaces often went from about 1/3 em to 1/4 em.  Is it
      not surprising that the wide gaps [between] sentences would have
      to go as well?

So it seems the original troff's interword space followed historical
typesetting practice, while groff's narrower space follows a more modern
typical practice.

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