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Re: Sentence-end punctuation

From: Reimer Behrends
Subject: Re: Sentence-end punctuation
Date: Sat, 1 Sep 2001 16:46:50 -0400
User-agent: Mutt/1.2.5i

On Fri, Aug 31, 2001 at 06:39:33PM -0400, Greg A. Woods wrote:
> [ On Friday, August 31, 2001 at 17:06:17 (-0400), Reimer Behrends wrote: ]
> > Subject: Re: Sentence-end punctuation
[Bringhurst, "The Elements of Typographic Style".]
> 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
> some way.

As I mentioned before, this discussion often becomes fairly religious.
What I said is basically "take it or leave it" advice, and if you're
happy, I'm not going to tell you what to do.

But you simply won't find a living typographer who advocates extra space
at the end of the sentence. And whether you consult Geoffrey Dowding's
"The Finer Points in the Spacing and Arrangement of Type" or Robin
Williams's (the designer, not the actor) more hands-down "ten tell-tale
signs that something is 'desktop-published'", you'll always find the

I would also note that attacking Bringhurst's credentials is probably a
bad idea -- there is a reason why his book is considered the bible of
typography by many professional typographers (feel free to disagree with
people like Hermann Zapf on that -- unless you think that Zapf is not a
real typographer, either). The reason I was quoting Bringhurst first and
not, say, Williams, or half a dozen other sources is that Bringhurst is
considered an authority among typographers.

> 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".

It is not a typo, and its usage is entirely correct. The "em square"
refers to an area 1f x 1f (in lout terms), and an em space is 1f wide.
An en space is half an em, and you will find that for most fonts (just
open them in a font editor), the interword space is about a quarter of
an em. Stephen Moye (the author of "Type by Design") recommends to start
out with the width of an "i" or "l" for the interword space, for
instance. (Note also that the width of an en or em space is usually not
related to the width of an "n" or "m" these days.)

> 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!  ;-)

They are punctuation in so far as they visibly separate larger
constituents, visually signaling breaks in the content.

> 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.

Feel free to do so -- but note that this is a habit that only exists in
English-speaking countries, and only because of high-school teachers and
editors and such, not due to typographers.


                        Reimer Behrends

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