Some of you know I was an editorial assistant at one of the Big Name publishers in Boston in my first post-college job. Every morning, I’d stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a large coffee and two glazed donuts, ride from Cambridge to Park Street on the MBTA, spill out with the hordes into Boston Common, and then walk past the Granary Burial Ground and Paul Revere’s grave on my way to my sixth-floor cubicle.
There, I’d pore over manuscript galleys and proofs looking for typos, grammar and spelling errors – and, since this was the old, pre-computer days – broken typeface in a seemingly endless series of mediocre middle-grade literature enrichment books.
If this hadn’t driven me stark raving mad and out of the glamorous world of publishing, I might have had my own publishing imprint by now and be making life-and-death decisions over your manuscripts. But it did, I don’t, and I’m not.
So imagine my shock when I read in Slate last week that I HAVE BEEN COMMITTING A MAJOR PUNCTUATION FAUX PAS MOST OF MY ADULT LIFE. (Over-use of the caps lock key is another, but I don’t want to get into that here.) Farhad Manjoo explained it all in excruciating detail here: Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.
Somewhere along the line, I missed the memo that there is only one space after a period in a sentence. How could that be? According to Manjoo, monospaced versus proportional typesetting rules came into being during a decade that I was not sitting at a desk and worrying about galley proofs. Uh oh.
I’ve spent years since the rules changed cranking out academic reports – and each and every one of them has two spaces, not one, between sentences. Sure, I followed APA or MLA or Chicago or whatever guidelines were called for in a given context – at least I thought I did – but only to make sure my footnotes and references were lookin’ good.
And you know what?
No one died because I inserted those extra spaces. Worlds did not collide. Elvis neither left nor re-entered the building due to the error of my spaces.
Life as we know it has continued.
Which leads me to this conclusion about punctuation rules and whether to worry too much about them: