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Yet still more from The Old Editor

More tweets collected for you.

The Old Editor says:

"Coveted" is as empty a piece of padding as "prestigious." Thou shalt not covet.

Stories to desk. Page One decisions made. Secret to improved copy flow: More national holidays.

You can’t fatten poor stock.

One of these days, I'm going to buy the newsroom a watch.

If you don't get it, don't use it.

Take care not to scorch the popcorn, and never heat up fish in the office microwave.

In interviews, always ask prospective employees whether they go in for home baking.

Journalistic ethics you should have learned by the second grade: Don't copy. Don't tell lies.

If [name] had written the Bible, you wouldn't be able to fit it in a boxcar. And it wouldn't be done yet.

If there's a word in the text you don't understand, and you let the text go, you haven't edited it.

Always honor the writer's intentions. If they can be discerned and make any sense.

RTFP. [Explanation for civilians: An exhortation to read one's own publication, with an intensive added]

Production of journalism, like the driving of mules, cannot be accomplished without swearing.

Unless you're still using an Underwood, it's one space after a period. One. Period.



Posted by John McIntyre at 9:07 AM | | Comments (9)


Only one space after a period? NO CAN DO!

That's all right. An editor will take out the extra spaces for you.

How is the amount of whitespace a hard and fast rule, rather than an aesthetic choice of the content creator? My hypothesis is that it's become popular simply because It reduces production cost.


I have read the essay on Mr. Fine's link twice now (and, readers, I do not recommend it), and I marvel that for all his exploration of the subject, he has not encountered, or absorbed, the simple explanation that the proportional fonts in modern word processing render the double-spacing of typewriter monotype fonts obsolete.

Mr. Fine is welcome to pursue his own aesthetic, but if he submits a text for publication, his editor will have the chore of removing his superfluous spaces.

Two links to posts at which this matter has been dealt with previously:

Not only have I encountered that explanation, I addressed it in my essay.

The thing that you and everyone else seems to overlook is that for over 800 years, proportional fonts were the rule. Hand typeset fonts WERE proportional. And for all of those centuries, the preferred aesthetic was extra space.

Typewriters are a brief blip in printing history, and had little effect on anything. The only interesting thing about them in terms of space is not how they needed extra space. It's the opposite - their spaces were ridiculously large compared to fonts before and since.

Your proportional/fixed explanation fails because it is not consistent with the facts. My hypothesis however is consistent throughout history - single spacing only dominates where production cost dominates.


I see single spacing on almost everything I read. Why the fight?
(BTW, thanks for citing the previous posts; I thought I was experiencing deja vu.)

True enough that handset type was proportional, but when I learned to set it back in the '60s, the prof insisted on one en-space between words and one en-space between sentences. We used em-spaces at the tops of paragraphs.

So proportional spaced computer type with only one space at the ends of sentences was perfectly comfortable to me.

As another commenter noted, historically extra space was added in proportional fonts. In monospace fonts, the extra space improves appearance. It makes good sense on the computer, just as it did on the typewriter.

One should feel free to double space after the period. If the material is eventually rendered in a proportional font, the computer can clean it up. (The book editor should not waste his time with such, since the machine can do it better and faster.)

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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