(A great place to start if you're new here is my Wide Spacing Roadmap.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

One Space is Just Wrong

"The space between sentences is a an aesthetic and functional choice, not a law."

That's the tag line on my Twitter account.  It's been my motto as I approach this issue.  It's my attempt to be fair and even-handed, and to avoid being preachy.  However as I learn more about this issue, I'm beginning to realize that it might be wrong.  Or at least incomplete.

When it comes to typography, I stand by it.  If you have the luxury of choosing your sentence spacing, by all means, choose whatever sentence spacing you find appropriate for your composition.  Wide spacing, or word spacing, a little wide or very wide, or even narrower than word spacing if you like.

But what I've learned is there is a very clear right answer on how many times to hit the space bar after a full stop.

We must use two spaces after a full stop.

It's odd that I'd say this, considering such brash and pedantic statements from the monospacers like Farhad Manjoo are what set me down this obsessive compulsive trail.  But unlike their reasons, which are clearly wrong and easily dismantled, I have a reason that is practical, and actually important.

First, let me be completely clear.  The printed space between sentences in a published work is not what I am talking about here.  I am only talking about the number of times you should hit the space bar after a sentence.  These things are not the same today, although they used to be.  On a typewriter they were the same thing.  On a Merganthaler Linotype hot metal typesetting machine, they were the same thing (although it was two different kinds of spaces).  But on computers, they are not. 

Computers can format your sentences however you like.  There's just one catch: computers must first know what a sentence is.

Wait, isn't that an easy one?  Actually, it is not.  The problem is that the meaning of a period is ambiguous.  It's not just a full stop.  It's also used to mark abbreviations.  And for initials.  And as a decimal point.  And after enumerations.  And as part of an ellipsis.  These things don't trip up human beings that often.  But for computers, deciding if that period is a full stop defies all attempts at a solution.  And there have been scores of scholarly papers on this very subject of sentence boundaries.  Let's look at a worst case scenario:
"Who's going?" "You and I. Smith is going too."
Is that "You and I." followed by "Smith is going too."?  Or is that referring to someone named "I. Smith"?  With no context, there's no way for even a human being to decide.  So for a complete solution we need a computer program that is capable of understanding context.  This is way beyond our current state of the art in computer software.

But that's just one example, right?  I mean, even people aren't perfect, so there must be an approach that's close enough?  Well, that depends on what you mean.  I've seem algorithms that claim to be successful 95% of the time or even 98% of the time.  Let's think about that - 98% means that your average article longer than 50 sentences is likely to have an ambiguous sentence boundary in it that the computer can't figure out.

So why do we care if a computer can parse what we say?  One practical reason is for machine translation.  Machines that are trying to translate what you are comm­unic­ating can do a much better job if they know what a sentence is.  There's also text-to-speech for the visually impaired (and others), which requires a knowledge of sentence boundaries to yield realistic inflection.  And of course it's useful for those who want wider sentence spacing.  But the larger reason is simply that we are trying to comm­uni­cate, and if a computer is going to mess it up, theres a chance a person might blow it too.

This whole problem could be solved if we only had an unambiguous full stop, rather than the confusing period.  But actually we do, or at least, we did.  For hundreds of years, it wasn't just professional printers that added extra space after sentences.  When students learned basic penmanship in school, they were also taught to add extra space between sentences.  There were no typewriters or computers.  All person-to-person comm­unic­ations before the typewriter were handwritten, and people penned their letters with extra space between sentences.

In other words, the unambiguous full stop is simply a period combined with extra space.  But we are losing this standard piece of punctuation.  We are losing it to technology.  We lost it to the poor formatting capabilities of the Linotype, and the expense of corrections.  We lost it to the general desire for faster and cheaper printing, and even the slight savings in paper.  We lost it to early web design standards that ignored the issue, because HTML was never meant to be so heavily typographic, and the designers didn't want to bother.

But that's all in the past.  Right now, we are losing it to a group of people who have declared war on the extra space.

No, I don't mean typographers.  You do often see claims that typographers everywhere have declared extra spacing to be wrong.  What you don't see is hoards of actual typographers saying that.  Sure you see some here and there.  But there's also quite a few typographers who don't think it's such a hard and fast rule.  And even a few who long for the days of wider sentence spacing.  Despite any claims, typographers are not the driving force in this war.

The real leaders of the crusade are the editors.  If you see someone complaining on line about this issue, by far the best guess is that they are an editor of some sort, and they are complaining about editing out extra spaces.  It's unfortunate that no one has bothered to tell them of the wonders of search-and-replace.  Or of requesting new features in their software if it doesn't do what they need.  Or of buying someone else's software.  All of these choices would alleviate the editor's pain without destroying a basic piece of punctuation.  But instead of fixing their software, they have chosen to bend the habits of the world to their will.

It's more than just unfortunate.  It's tragic.  Editors are entrusted with preserving our comm­unic­ations, with standardizing them.  And yet it is editors who, simply out of plain laziness or technological ignorance, are willing to cast aside the unambiguous full stop like it was nothing more than yesterday's newspaper, or this morning's toilet paper.

In print, the unambiguous full stop disappeared thanks to cost-cutting.  Luckily, we had typewriters there to keep it alive, and teach us all the two-space habit.  But now we're in the computer age.  Much software has learned it's lesson from typewriters, and those two spaces are still used and recognized in a wide number of software packages.  But unfortunately there are other software packages that don't understand.  They learned their lessons from a print industry, without understanding that the loss of extra spacing was simply a cost-cutting strategy.

The irony is that today, the costs that lead to the demise of wide sentence spacing in the print industry no longer apply.  Thanks to the two-space typing habit it's a trivial change to allow the print industry to reliably typeset sentences according to any desired style.  And it's trivial for translation software, and text to speech software to reliably detect sentences and use that information.

Ultimately we write so that we can communicate our ideas clearly and effectively.  And our most basic unit of comm­unic­ation is the sentence.  Isn't it worth providing a reliable way of deciding what is and is not a sentence?

On the other hand, we could all abandon that extra space and just leave it up to chance.  Because think of all the time those editors can save!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dynamic Sentence Formatting for Blogger

Prior to this blog, I wrote an article on formatting sentences with HTML and CSS.  And that article itself has been formatted so that the viewer can dynamically control the sentence spacing.

Now I've made my first pass at doing the same thing in Blogger.  At the right, you should see controls for adjusting the size of the added sentence spacing.  And in my very limited testing, it works for me on Safari 5.

In a perfect world, which I'm working towards, but we're still not there, the editing process would automatically mark each sentence in it's own span, which is what I did by hand in that older article.  But I haven't had time to rewrite Blogger's post editor yet.  What I've done instead is relied on my so-called typewriter habit, and Blogger's idiosyncratic method of preserving extra spaces by trading them for non-breaking space entities (" ").

I use javascript at page load time to look for sequences of period-space-&nbsp, and replace them with a span that wraps the space between sentences.  Ideally I'd mark each sentence, but this was a bit easier to code.  Then I modify the word-spacing just for those spans.  The controller at the right finds the appropriate value in the style sheet and modifies it.

It's not perfect.  The lines don't seem to re-wrap based on this change, and when the spacing is changed too much you'll end up with the right margin broken.  I think this could be a Safari or WebKit bug, because my original code in that older article would reflow as needed, but in that case I wasn't using justified text [update: reflow does work in Firefox][update 2: working now in Safari, see comments].  Another problem is that it could miss some sentences if you haven't been careful about where you place your tags at sentence boundaries: if there's a tag inserted between the space and the nbsp, it won't account for that (it can handle a single tag between the period and the space though).  An additional problem is that if you had for example some alt text of an image that had a period and a space and an nbsp, it would probably muck up your alt text.  But neither of the last two problems is at all common in practice (and this should still be considered an early attempt).

This method could easily be extended to any web pages besides blogger.  If you have a two space habit, the script could be modified to look for period-space-space instead of period-space-&nbsp.  This works because even though HTML doesn't preserve your spaces for display purposes, the browser does seem to preserve them internally.

In fact you could extend this further and attempt to modify any web content, regardless of the author's typing habits, and look for sentence boundaries with any period and space.  Unfortunately as I've discussed elsewhere, this is prone to errors, and you'd have to do significantly more checking (for abbreviations, initials, etc.) just to make it close to accurate.  Only full grammar parsing would do a truly acceptable job.

Let me also note that I originally tried to implement this as a Google gadget, and while that would simplify the process of others adding this feature to their blogs, I hit a little snag that the gadgets are remotely loaded, and the browsers frown upon javascript from one domain monkeying around with the DOM for parts of the document that come from some other domain.  The only way I found around this was to add the HTML directly.  If there's another way to accomplish this please let me know.

So how can you add this to your Blogger page too?

First, you have to add a bit of CSS.  Go to your blog's dashboard, select "Template" and then "Customize".  Then "Advanced", and in the list that appears to the right, scroll down to the bottom and select "Add CSS".  In the window that you get add the following:
.sntc_space { word-spacing: 0.25em; }
And then click "Apply to Blog". Next, you have to add the HTML-based gadget. Go back to the Blogger dashboard, and click layout. Click "Add a gadget" in the spot where you want the control to appear. From the list of gadgets select the one called "HTML/Javascript". Set the title to whatever text you want above your control (e.g. "My blog's sentence spacing"), and then past the following into the content:

var className='post-body';
var oldbox=null;
function init_sentence_spacing() {
  var spaced_elements;
  if (document.getElementsByClassName == undefined) {
    spaced_elements = [];
    var allElements = document.getElementsByTagName("*");
    var element;
    for (var i = 0; (element = allElements[i]) != null; i++) {
      var elementClass = element.className;
      if (elementClass && elementClass.indexOf(className) != -1 && hasClassName.test(elementClass))
  } else {
    spaced_elements = document.getElementsByClassName(className);
  var elem;
  for (var i=0; (elem = spaced_elements[i]) != null; i++) {
    var foo=elem.innerHTML;
    foo=foo.replace(/([.!?][")]*) &nbsp;([A-Z<("])/g,"$1<span class=sntc_space> </span>$2");
    foo=foo.replace(/([.!?][")]*)(<\/[^<>]*>) &nbsp;([A-Z<("])/g,"$1$2<span class=sntc_space> </span>$3");
function change_sentence_spacing(value,box) {
  var CSSRules
  if (oldbox) {"white";
  if (document.all) {
  } else if (document.getElementById) {
  for (var j=0; j<document.styleSheets.length; ++j) {
    if (document.styleSheets[j].href==null) {
      for (var i=0; i<document.styleSheets[j][CSSRules].length; ++i) {
        if (document.styleSheets[j][CSSRules][i].selectorText == 'span.sntc_space') {
          document.styleSheets[j][CSSRules][i].style['wordSpacing'] = value;
if(window.addEventListener) {
  window.addEventListener('load', init_sentence_spacing, false);
} else {
  window.attachEvent('onload', init_sentence_spacing);

<table rules=all cellpadding=2px>
<td onclick="change_sentence_spacing('0em',this);">None</td>
<td onclick="change_sentence_spacing('0.125em',this);">Tiny</td>
<td id=quarter_em_sentence bgcolor="#40ff40" onclick="change_sentence_spacing('0.25em',this);">Small</td>
<td onclick="change_sentence_spacing('0.50em',this);">Medium</td>
<td onclick="change_sentence_spacing('0.75em',this);">Large</td>
<td onclick="change_sentence_spacing('1.25em',this);">Huge</td>

Totally and perfectly simple, right?  Save the gadget contents and you're all set.  Now just press the space bar twice between sentences in the Blogger post editor and your readers will be able to control how they view your sentence formatting.

Note that with this setup, the default extra space is a quarter em (very conservative), and that this corresponds to the "Small" button in the control.  If you want to change this default, pick a different value for ".sntc_space" in the CSS, and move the "id=quarter_em_sentence" piece to the correct table element for the value you've made your default (but don't rename that id unless you also fix the code that looks for it; I guess that was a poor choice to name that id but I don't feel like correcting it at the moment).  You can also change the values or labels in the table to anything you'd like.

Friday, December 14, 2012

19th Century Typewriting and Handwriting Rules

I've done a bit of searching of old books for spacing rules used on typewriters.  There's not much out there.  In typesetting, sources are consistent in either recom­mending an em-quadrat between sentences, or making no mention of sentence spacing at all.  There was one reference I've found (and can't find in my notes on, grrr), which had the recom­men­dation for spacing that you should simply pick up any book of the day and you could learn everything you need to know by looking at it.  I've also found a handwriting book from 1873 (Analysis of Letter Writing, by Calvin Townsend) which describes desired spacing in handwriting on page 19:
  The rule is, to leave space sufficient to write the minimum m between the words, of the same size of that letter used in the body of your writing.  [...]
  After an interrogation or exclamation point, and following the period, space enough should be left to write a double m.
Note too the date, 1873 was the same year the first 1000 typewriters in the world went into production, so this wide sentence spacing can (once again) not be blamed on typewriters.

But for the most part, in penmanship manuals and especially in typewriting manuals I'm finding this topic simply gets no mention at all.  My belief is that wide spacing was such an ingrained habit from the time people learned to write, that it was simply automatic.

So I was happy to find this tidbit from The Phonographic Magazine, Volume 12 (1898), By Jerome Bird Howard, on pages 206-207:
  Are there any stated rules for spacing after punctuation marks in typewriting?  I notice that some writers put a space after a comma, and two spaces after a period, while others do not put any extra space after a comma and only one space after a period.  Which is correct?
  Answer.—It is our observation that in the best specimens of typewritten work there is always a space following a comma, and two spaces following a period.
I like this because the wide sentence spacing is assumed in either choice without any analysis at all.  But also because it demonstrates that if anything, people felt that typewriter spacing might need to be less than traditional typeset spacing, rather than more.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Everything You Think You Know About Sentence Spacing is Wrong

Bashing the use of additional space between sentences has become a popular past-time.  There's been an unending supply of articles decrying the use of extra space between sentences.  You might think this means a very large body of evidence against wide sentence spacing, but in reality, all of these articles are just repeating and perpetuating the same myths, even though they don't stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

So let's take a look at the truth behind these popular myths.
Two spaces were introduced with the typewriter because all the gaps in monospaced fonts make single spaces unclear or aesthetically bad.  Proportional fonts don't need it.
This is probably the most popular argument, and yet it is completely incorrect.  First, wide sentence spacing was standard practice for hundreds of years before typewriters were invented.  The first newspapers printed in America used it.  It was used not only in printing but was even standard in handwriting (the Declaration of Independence was written that way).  During this period of course, proportional fonts were the standard; monospaced fonts were virtually unheard of before the typewriter.  When the typewriter came along, people put extra space between sentences because that's what they were already doing everywhere else.

The trend towards the same spacing for words and sentences didn't take place in typesetting until sixty years after the invention of the typewriter.  Clearly, blaming wide sentence spacing on the typewriter is incorrect.  The best one can do is blame the typewriter for preserving what was abandoned in the printing industry.

Second, yes monospaced fonts look airy and could even be described as having gaps.  But the actual spaces are enormous too.  Compared to proportional fonts, spaces see the biggest increase in size of any character.  And the period character in a monospaced font is just as wide, creating a lot of visual space when used with just a single space.  Because of the air over and around the period, and the very wide space, the only logical argument someone might make about this is the opposite of the myth: typewriter fonts had less need for the extra space compared to proportional fonts.
The Chicago Manual of Style says so.
This manual, and most others that people reference are industry standards.  They aren't lawbooks or grammar rules, or even really "Miss Manners" guides.  They are a reference for people who work for that particular company, on how their employer wants them to perform their duties.  The only people that must follow the Chicago Manual of Style are people who work for the University of Chicago Press.

Of course, anyone is free to follow them, but keep in mind that the choices made by some particular publisher might have as much or more to do with streamlining printing costs as they do with achieving the height of aesthetics or the most ideal reading experience.

Personally, I've never found cost-cutting or conforming with big business to be very stylish choices.
HTML eliminates extra spaces automatically.
This has nothing to do with typography, and everything to do with how the web was designed and how it grew.  HTML was built on top of SGML, and that's where it's inherited it's syntax of angle-bracketed <tags>.  The way SGML works, the tags describe any meta-information about a document, which includes layout information.  The stuff between the tags is the actual content.  And in the content, a space's only purpose is to separate words from each other.  One space or ten do that job exactly the same, and this is why spaces in HTML are collapsed.

Sentence spacing (or any other kind of spacing for that matter) is not content, it is layout.  So why can't you adjust the layout of sentence spacing?  In early conceptions of the World Wide Web, HTML was meant as a very simple document type that could be used to access all other document types.  Even in the beginning there was resistance to adding new tags or behaviors.  There was a version of the XMosaic web browser which did in fact try to detect sentences based on periods, and add extra space between them.  However it was deemed to be unreliable, and unneeded.  This was not an effort to conform to typography.  In fact one argument for no extra space was that "writers of HTML really shouldn't need to know the fineries of typography" and quipped that letting HTML do that would be as silly as letting it do kerning.  Of course that was a long time ago, and now modern HTML and CSS standards include some options for pair kerning and range kerning.

At present, I'm hoping to introduce new standards into HTML to improve it's ability to provide convenient CSS-controlled sentence spacing.
Modern computer fonts adjust their spacing automatically.
Sorry there is nothing magical about fonts.  Much like the typewriter argument, this one is pure fabrication.  The only thing I can think of is that this refers to the pair-kerning that is built into many modern computer fonts.  This tells the font that when certain letters are next to each other to adjust their spacing.  This was commonly done because some letters look more airy next to each other ("eo") and others look more crowded ("dl").

However it is absolutely not common practice for fonts to set pair kerning for a period and a space.  Nor should they.  A period can be used in an abbreviation followed by a space, and we definitely wouldn't want to confuse this spacing with sentence spacing.  Also, some people choose to use spaces between initials, e.g. "A. J. Foyt", and while using a space there is an arguable practice, I doubt anyone would argue that those spaces need to be wider.

Aside from the fonts, some software packages might automatically detect and format sentences.  This is not typically on by default in modern word processors, probably because it's hard for computers to get it right by themselves.  Consider this answer to the question "who's going?": "You and I. J. Smith will also go."  Is that one sentence or two?  In fact, if software needs to detect sentences for whatever reason, it will have a much easier time accomplishing this if users are in the habit of using two spaces between sentences.
Wide sentence spacing creates rivers of whitespace in the text.
A "river" appears when spaces on a few lines in a row all line up and create a visual effect that draws the eye.  This has always been considered unsightly, but did not become a hot topic of conversation in printing until the invention of hot-metal typesetting.  In hand-setting, typesetters could adjust the spacing in lines such that spaces didn't line up as much.  In lines that were very "open" (didn't have much text) it was common practice to add spaces between letters in a word, which reduced the gaps between words, and hence reduced problems with rivers.

The most popular typesetting machines after the invention of hot-metal typesetting were Linotype machines.  Letter spacing on these machines was impractical.  Because of this, the Linotype was very prone to rivers.  It should be no surprise then that Linotype pushed the world towards narrower fonts, narrower word spacing, and eliminating extra space between sentences, because all of these adjustments helped to reduce the appearance of the Linotype's inevitable rivers.
Two spaces, or one?
 Almost every article out there focuses on "how many" spaces there should be between sentences.  This is the wrong issue entirely.  Typographically, we should be talking about "how much" space we use.  "How many" spaces is irrelevant in typography, just as it was irrelevant in the pre-typewriter era, where the same physical gap in text might be made from several different combinations of physical spaces and quads.

The only place where the question of "how many" is relevant is during the actual act of typing, and this is where the only clear argument is to press that space bar twice.  Regardless of your aesthetic choices on how much space should go between sentences, the typewriter's convention is incredibly useful for helping computers figure out where those sentences are.

Admittedly there's plenty of software that doesn't provide good handling for sentences, and simply sticks in two actual space characters with no way to override it.  But if your software doesn't do what it should, demand that the software be changed.  Don't demand that everyone in the world adjust their behavior to conform to your broken software.

A River Runs Through It

[One of my primary goals here is to develop a set of articles that explains the real history of how we lost wide sentence spacing.  Eventually I'll lay the entire case out in some permanent documents, but in the mean time I'll be making little bits of my case in individual blog postings.  This is just one piece of that case, the first of many to come.]

One of the significant technological factors that influenced the aesthetics of sentence spacing was the invention of the line-casting machine in the 1880s, and in particular the Mergenthaler Company's Linotype machine.  With only a little training, an operator of the Linotype could be four or more times faster at setting type than the best traditional compositors doing it by hand.  In only a few years, the Linotype began reshaping the industry.

One of the Linotypes' advantages was that lines could be automatically justified.  This was accomplished because the standard word space was not simply a blank spot in the mold for the line.  It was a wedge called a "spaceband" that could be used to push words apart as needed.  So if all the spaces in a line were set with spacebands, then as the line became near full, the machine would spread the spacebands out until the line was justified.

But there was an aesthetic downside to this massive increase in productivity.  The Linotype had a very bad habit of creating "rivers" in the output, especially in narrower columns of text.

A river is a big area of white space that draws the eye.  It's caused when spaces on several lines in a row all line up, and the larger the spaces are the worse the problem will be.  It's considered very poor form in typography to create these rivers.  Traditional compositors could alleviate rivers by adding space between letters, which would would keep the word spaces from becoming overly large, and would decrease the chance that they would line up with spaces in lines above or below.  They could even add more space between letters in one part of the line so that the spaces in adjacent lines were pushed  away from each other.

The Linotype however could not do this automatically.  It was only possible to add spaces between letters by hand.  That by itself would slow things down to lose any advantage of the Linotype, but of course it would actually be worse than this.  A linotype compositor could only set one line at a time, while a traditional compositor using a composing stick could set several lines at once.  In setting type by hand, rivers could be eliminated before proofing, but on the Linotype, you'd have no idea how the rivers were forming until after you'd already cast the line, and at least one, if not several more.  Letter spacing on the Linotype would have been slower than setting type by hand, and would not have been worth it.
Simulations of  Linotype typesetting methods on the left and traditional methods on the right.  The rivers on the left are much more apparent, even though the text and line breaks are identical.

The solution initially was just to live with the rivers.  Over time, narrower fonts were favored.  Not only did they save paper, they put more words (and hence more spaces) into each line, so the spaces wouldn't have to expand as much for justification.  As narrower fonts became more popular, narrow word-spacing also became more popular both to match the narrow fonts, and to reduce the rivers.  The Mergenthaler corporation pushed these changes forward as aesthetic improvements in general, but it seems to me the primary goal would be to improve the aesthetics of Linotype's automated output.

Even with these changes, the Linotype still created rivers and holes with much greater frequency than handset type.  The next thing to go was wide sentence spacing, and again, it was Mergenthaler who was leading the charge for this new trend.

I'd like to do a bit more research into the history of "rivers".  There's almost no references to rivers in the 19th century (but I do see references to "pigeon-holes" going back as far as 1824 so far).  On the other hand, in one reference in 1895, William Morris notes the excessive appearance of rivers as a reason why he founded his press (in 1891).  It's not clear if the Linotype was common enough at that point to have this kind of influence, although it's possible.  The first commercial machine was in use in 1886, and there were 1100 machines in operation in the United States by 1894.  It's also just as possible the he was simply talking about sloppy compositing in general.  It seems likely that the same financial pressures that made the Linotype a success also put pressure on traditional compositors to cut corners.  And as with every profession, there are always those that just suck at their jobs.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Typography was a Manly Art

I came across this tidbit and just had to share it.  I was reading "Articles on William Morris" by Theodore Low DeVinne and Katherine Tynan Hinkson from 1897.  DeVinne (who is not always in favor of Morris' typographic stylings, particularly his affinity for narrower word-spacing), has this to say:

William Morris deserves high praise for his attempts to put typography back in its proper field.  He seems to have been the first of moderns to see that typography was a manly art that could stand in its own legs without crutches lent by sister arts, and that it should be treated and clothed in manly fashion.
I just found that to be a very amusing description.

In other news, I still haven't found any 19th century sources for the phrase "french spacing" (the earliest source I know of at this point is 1939), although the few 19th century french publications I've looked at do use word spacing between sentences.  Which of course makes it so odd that in all the english publications I'm looking at about typography, nobody seems to mention this particular habit of the french.

Another random and interesting thing I stumbled across is that a number of books seem to have stolen quite directly from Johnson's Typographia, from 1820-ish (at least that's the earliest version I've found so far, maybe he plagiarized it from yet another party).  I was trying to track down early references to rivers and gutters and holes in text.  Which I can't find hardly at all.  But apparently the word "pigeon-holes" was a popular way of describing text that had wide word spacing without the benefit of increased letter spacing.  And in my research, this quote kept turning up in different books by very different authors throughout the 19th century:
What is required of a compositor when he goes about correcting a foul proof, is a sharp bodkin and patience, because without them the letter cannot escape suffering by the steel; and hurrying will not permit him to justify the lines true.  No wonder therefore to see pigeon-holes in one place, and pi in another.
This version is from "Typographia: a brief sketch of the origin, rise, and progress of Typographic Art", by Thomas F. Adams, 1837.  And I found something similar in "A Manual of Typography, [and a really long subtitle]", fifteenth edition from 1885.  Although that one definitely mentioned having stolen from a great number of other sources including Johnson's Typographia.

OK, how about some actual sentence spacing content?  I'm still looking for older references to rivers and gutters (or some term that meant the same) in 19th century texts, and not finding anything closer than "pigeon-holes".  In fact gutters meant something entirely different.  My suspicion is that rivers and gutters were easily avoided in hand-set type, and only became a significant problem with the Linotype machine, which was not capable of automatically spacing out letters, only words.  So the Linotype would have been very susceptible to "pigeon-holes".  Migrating to narrower spacing overall (which seems to have happened from about 1900-1930) would have alleviated the problem, and I think this is another example of limitations of technology influencing fashion.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hello World

Welcome to my first posting about sentence spacing.  Why am I here?  It has a lot to do with that horrible Slate article by Farhad Manjoo almost two years ago telling us all his poorly informed, pedantic, and condescending opinion about sentence spacing.

I'm not a typographer, I'm a software engineer.  Nevertheless what he was saying went against everything I thought I knew on the subject, which at the time was not much.  So I decided to learn about more about the subject.  It's turned into a bit of an obsession, and I'm starting to become a bit of an expert on the subject.  I've set up this blog to document my research as it continues, and to counter the myths put forth by people like Mr. Manjoo, who are unfortunately quite numerous.

But I also see quite a few people like me out there, who think this "one space" movement is just a bunch of pedantic control freaks on a joy ride.  And no, I'm not going to make you use "two spaces" (a phrase that only demonstrates people's misunderstanding).  Sentence spacing is an aesthetic and functional choice, not some kind of rule or law of typography.  The very notion is ridiculous

In the past, I've written a couple of articles about it—How Many Spaces at the End of a Sentence, and Sentence Spacing in HTML and CSS (both of which give the reader dynamic control of the sentence spacing). Since then I've learned a thing or two.  I've started an effort to improve web technology to make sentence spacing practical in HTML.

I also hope to improve support in Blogger for marking and formatting sentences, and give it the same dynamic sentence control I used in my older web articles.  I see that right now, Blogger preserves the extra space I'm typing between sentences, although unfortunately it does it via the awful &nbsp; entity.  (Worse, it puts the entity second, which shows as a slight indentation where sentences start at the beginning of the line.)  It's a start, but it's hardly adequate.

So yes, this is it's a tiny little niche, but I've already got several postings in mind.  Follow along, and let's see what we can dig up.