No Parknig

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.

Oh well.

Still, signs like “these” – and they’re everywhere – continue to make me crazy. For years, I couldn’t read a newspaper without a red pen in my hand.

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:

4 comments to No Parknig

  • I’d love to know where you found all those great signs … or maybe not.

    LOL regarding the spaces after a period. Since I had a brief stint working for a few local newspapers, after a single Intro to Journalism class, I did get the memo that the standard was a single space. (I thought this came from the AP Style Guide, but I just looked it up and didn’t see it there.)

    At any rate, I edited competitive documents for a while in my day job, and I battled endlessly with one guy who insisted on using the two spaces. I “won” for each doc that was published, but the next doc would always came through with two spaces 😉

  • Natasha

    I’ll bet whoever read your documents – or mine – neither knew nor cared how many spaces there were between sentences. I’ll bet “Donna” wouldn’t care either.

    Maybe I should do some kind of contest – like figure out which one of my character-driven blog posts took place in the shade of those signs.

    Let me think about that… as well as an appropriate “prize” for a correct guess. Maybe a personally guided tour?

  • OK, I’ll be the first to say I learned to put a double space after the period and it’s programmed into my fingers. Damn, I’m having trouble changing it!

    • Natasha

      It’s a, er, ‘vintage’ thang, Parrot. I assume you learned to type about the same time I did and you used an IBM selectric or some other antique. Every letter got the same amount of space, whether it was ‘w’ or ‘l’ and someone decided that 2 spaces looked better.

      Like I wrote above, worlds have not collided because of our double spaces. I just wanted to use my sign pictures and this seemed like an okay topic to wrap them around.

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