Time to space out

Hallelujah!  There is good news for middle-agers.

Indeed, there are new findings about old brains.  The good news is that, according to a new book and some additional long-term research, the brain of the average 40-to-60-year-old isn’t ready for the trash heap.  In fact, it is more flexible and more capable than previously thought.  We are even generating new brain cells, never mind how we lost the old ones.  They’re always the last place you look.

The bad news is that we no longer have an excuse for our, what word am I looking for, oh, yes, forgetfulness.

Admittedly, I haven’t yet read The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain or the 55 years of research of the Seattle Longitudinal Study, which has followed thousands of people over decades to determine how their brain function changes over time.  But findings have been featured in the news all week, with various medical experts agreeing, that the grey matter of the gray-haired isn’t to be underestimated.  In fact, it often improves over time.

It’s the flexibility aspect I find especially comforting.  First, let’s set aside any question about the adaptability of older people in life and work settings, as the overwhelming number of comments readers posted on our recent discussion of the generation gap shed valuable light on all facets.

My personal experience is that, while I believe I am quite adaptable to all sorts of new things–technologies, ideas, ways of doing things–breaking old habits isn’t easy, if simply from a mechanical standpoint.

Here’s a tiny—literally tiny—example.  I cannot for the life of me seem to break the habit of typing two spaces after a period.

Like many women of my generation, I went through formal typing training in high school.  Even if we had either high career aspirations or hopes of full-time engagement inside the home, we were told that strong secretarial skills were something we could “fall back on.”

A key rule in typing—no pun intended—involved inserting two spaces after every period.

Of course, this had everything to do with the block spacing of yesterday’s typing technology.  When modern word processing came to be, much changed.

I recall in the 1990s a colleague referring me to The Mac is Not a Typewriter, one of several manuals of style for the new age—including writing for the Web–on the matter of the double space.

I have known for more than 20 years that a second space has no place after a period, but I can’t control my fingers.  I have even gone so far as running a search on a completed document, and universally replacing two spaces with one.

The recent news about the middle-aged brain gives me hope, and takes away my old-dog-new-tricks excuse.

Perhaps I need to make a public pledge to give up the second space, just as I did on April 8th when I gave up the Oxford comma.  I have held true to that pledge, so there’s no reason I can’t retrain myself on this one.  I still think one space looks funny but then again, so do a lot of correct sentences about which I preach.

Can anyone recommend a double space support group?  I am ready to change.

4 Comments

Filed under All Things Wordish, Technology and Social Media

4 responses to “Time to space out

  1. Alyson

    Sign me for that group.

  2. Polly

    I like the two spaces after end punctuation. I think it is more clear and concise and, as a teacher, allows me to differentiate to my students the difference between end punctuation and, say, a comma.

    I have literally backspaced to correctly add two spaces after end punctuation — and am proud of it. Betty Owen taught me well!

    I love the flexible status of the oxford comma… so no issues there.

  3. dudley

    I have gotten in the habit, instead of the double space which I was taught too, I just do a…and then start my next thought…doesn’t break the rhythm

  4. You can get the sack if you put a second character space after the full stop. I’m not kidding. This would be especially true if you happen to be working on real typesetting/photosetting/compositing equipment. A real typesetting system makes micro-adjustments to the space between apparent sentences.

    I’ve been trained on a variety of manual, electric and electronic typewriters, as well as handsetting, Linotype, Linotron and other front-end composition systems. Just two and a half rules:

    (1) On a typewriter that uses fixed-width type, add the second character space after the full stop.

    (2) On a proportional-spacing typewriter (e.g. IBM Compositor), just one character space after the full stop.

    (2A) On a regular computer (PC/Mac/whatever) using wordprocessing software (e.g. MS Word), better to use just one character space, but it doesn’t really matter because you won’t (or shouldn’t) be using those apps to make professional documents for print.

    Generally, please don’t add the second character space, especially when you’re preparing a manuscript for the editor to work on. Let the editor do this for you. Better still, let the editor decide if the “second spacer” really is called for in the publication. Trust your editor’s judgment. Don’t create extra unnecessary work for the editor.

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