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Re: Sentence-end punctuation
Greg A. Woods
Re: Sentence-end punctuation
Fri, 31 Aug 2001 18:39:33 -0400 (EDT)
[ On Friday, August 31, 2001 at 17:06:17 (-0400), Reimer Behrends wrote: ]
> Subject: Re: Sentence-end punctuation
> This can become a somewhat religious topic, but modern typography
> demands a single space after punctuation, with hardly any exceptions.
> Quoth Robert Bringhurst, "The Elements of Typographic Style":
> "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. Generations of twentieth-century typists
> were then taught to do the same, by hitting the spacebar twice after
> each period. Your typing as well as your typesetting will benefit 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
> punctuation. Larger spaces (e.g., en spaces) are /themselves/
> "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."
What surprises me about that quote is that it uses the phrase "single
space" in the first paragraph, but then more correctly used thw pharase
"en space" in the second paragraph. I've rarely ever seen any real
typographer speak of white space without qualifying it with its width in
I'm not sure if the typo is yours or in the original, but the "en" in
the last sentence of the first paragraph is obviously wrong too. In
most font faces an 'n' is more narrow than an 'm' and indeed the normal
minimum inter-word gap, a smaller space, is usually called an "en space".
Also Bringhurst's claim that larger spaces are punctuation is also
clearly wrong, at least for English. Only the likes of e e cummings
could get away with that kind of nonsense! ;-)
Contrary to what Mr. Bringhurst says, your _typing_ will not benefit
from unlearning the double-space habit since most typists still produce
primarily mono-spaced print, even when typing electronically.
Luckily though lout, unlike some other typesetting programs, can be
taught to deal with most common conventions though.
Another consideration about spacing in typography that I've read about
somewhere in the past, which is hinted to in Mr. Bringhurst's text, is
the fact that the capital letter which usually begins a new sentence is
usually wider than the same lowercase letter in the same face. This
tends to visually give the appearance of there being a wider gap between
sentences than there is between other words. I don't remember the exact
reference for this but I recall that the advice was to adjust the
inter-sentence gap appropriately for the font face being used. IIRC the
advice was to use more inter-sentence spacing when using a sans-serif
font face such as Helvetica, but that additional space was not normally
necessary when using Times Roman and even more exaggerated faces such as
> Or from Sean Cavanaugh's Rules of Typography at:
To actually quote from that page, note particularly:
The rationale was that it is easier for the eye to distinguish
sentences in this fashion. When using monospaced fonts (read:
typewriter fonts), there might be some validity to this.
[[ .... ]]
While not necessary, it is acceptable and often more readable
when composing e-mail (text that will be read online and not
printed) to insert two spaces after periods, question and
exclamation marks, and colons.
Which is exactly what I've been saying too....
It seems that even most of the "experts" who don't like extra spacing
between sentences concede that it's beneficial in mono-spaced print, and
the reasons for this should be independent of the human language the
While off-topic w.r.t. lout, note that typewriter rules should still
apply when preparing HTML too -- none of the browsers I used to examine
the RulesOfType page above showed anything meaningful in the HTML text
(the examples of both spaces and dashes could only be discriminated in
the GIF images).
Greg A. Woods
+1 416 218-0098 VE3TCP <address@hidden> <address@hidden>
Planix, Inc. <address@hidden>; Secrets of the Weird <address@hidden>