Dude, Get Out Of My Face With Your Extra Space!

Posted on September 12, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations |

I had to laugh this week when a reporter from a local daily newspaper peevishly Tweeted about a grammatical mistake she discovered in a press release sent her way (not from me, I swear). Rhetorically, she asked if she should publicly shame the author of that press release. She did not ultimately name him. We know it was a him since she concluded by pointing out to the offending “dude” that there’s only one space – not two! – between consecutive sentences in a paragraph.

Got that, dude?

Whether the dude was suitably shamed or not, I do not know. It seemed ironic to me that a reporter would vent about some poor PR flack’s grammatical transgression. (She did call him a flack, which is what the just call the unjust in the communications world.)

The Pot Boils, The Kettle Cringes

Then I got riled over the reporter taking such a haughty stand. Wasn’t the pot calling the kettle black?

I can’t remember the last time I read a newspaper – and I’m a pretty thorough newspaper reader – that wasn’t riddled with typographical and grammatical mistakes. Mistakes so glaring as to be obvious to a third grader, or even a caveman for that matter. Mistakes that break up the clarity of the copy, cause a reader to pause to try and figure out what the writer is attempting to say, and otherwise mess up the experience of reading the daily fish wrap.

But I don’t want to get caught up in the fish fry.

One Space Per Sentence, Please

Suffice it to say, I hope the reporter had a better day today than yesterday. And that the PR dude – maybe he’s a repeat offender, which might explain the reporter’s seemingly disproportionate frustration with his school dunce mistake – got the message. It’s also true that people have been taught different grammatical rules in school over time. Two spaces between sentences was in fact taught as a proper way to write, especially letter-writing, once upon a time. Maybe it still is. It almost sounds like something left over from a more gracious time in American letters. Emily Dickinson might have been a proponent of the double-space approach for all I know.

No Room For The Double-Wide Spacing

People who publish newspapers are more economical in their use of blank spaces in copy. To them, that second empty space is just a complete waste of space. And worse. The cumulative impact of using an extra space would be to reduce the amount of copy that a newspaper could publish, at least in its legacy print editions.

Printing costs would probably be slightly lower though. Bylines would be fewer however, since the cumulative effect of hundreds of extraneous, idle spaces across the paper would be reductive on the amount of real reporting that the newspaper could publish.

Case For The One Space

So, yes, I vote for the one-space separator between sentences rule. That’s because I like my newspapers to be as fat and copy-happy as possible. Especially today, with so many newspapers looking like they’re surviving on half-rations.

I also like newspapers, the ones I pay good money for especially, to be as readable as possible. I don’t enjoy stopping half-way through a sentence to try and figure out what the reporter is trying to say. That happens way too often today. There’s nothing in the AP Stylebook that says reporters should confound their readers; the whole intention of AP Style is just the opposite.

So let’s agree. There’s no place for that extra space between sentences, and newspapers are no place for sloppily written, hastily edited – or unedited as the case may be – copy.

Got that, dude and dudette?

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