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Friday 19th Jan 2018

Where the hell have I been the past thirty years or so? I was literally floored last week following an e-mail exchange I had with my buddy, business partner, co-manager and co-editor, Lawr. Along with authoring multiple columns a week for the site, Lawr and I share editing duties along with Zach Steinhorn, for whom I am pinch-hitting for with this unscheduled posting of “Chaos.” I was commenting to Lawr that I have noticed more and more articles are being submitted with only one space after the period denoting the end of the sentence and it was driving me crazy, going through everything, adding the second space. In a rather kind and soothing manner, Lawr gave me a cyber Gibbs head slap and informed me one space between sentences is the accepted means of writing on the Internet. My sister, who is a teacher, then embellished by letting me know that is now accepted in all but the most traditional formal writing, even in legal documents.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR – I had no idea!

While I admit I am nowhere near the writer of my esteemed colleague Lawr (but I bet I am better with a test tube and Erlenmeyer flask), I can hold my own, especially when it comes to proper sentence construct and grammar rules. To me, the rules of writing are sort of like math, and believe it or not, the way I learn things is to convert them to math.  Yeah, shocking. For instance, music is really nothing more than math that has evolved to be aesthetically pleasing to our oratory sense. Well, except for Thelonious Monk.I may not be able to paint the same picture as Lawr. Heck, I do not even have quite the inventory of paint that he does, but I get by.

So when I learned that one of the basic tenets of writing has been effectively changed since around 1989, I was floored. Why did not anyone tell me? Did I miss the meeting? Someone could have at least sent me a memo! Of course, those were my drinking years, so perhaps someone did.

So I do what I always do in situations like this – Google.

Lo and behold, I discovered there were several other alterations to the foundation I learned back in Middle and High School, while I was forced to slog through such literary nightmares as Wuthering Heights. Good Lord, I hated that book and even though I dig Kate Bush as a singer, I cannot stand the song by that name. Not only that, once I found out Dr. Huxtable’s real name was Heathcliff, I stopped watching The Cosby Show.

Uh oh, I better check on that underlining thing.

Oh no, I was supposed to use italics. Damn!

I also learned that – hold on, I need to be strapped in as I write this – I also learned that it is now acceptable to end a sentence in a preposition. Do you know how many times I have awkwardly worked the word “which” into a sentence so that I would not end it with “with”?

453,234 times

And get this, beginning a sentence with “and” or “but” is also now fine. But, it is recommended to use it sparingly and only to draw extra attention to a point for emphasis.

Now here is the biggie.  For years, I have gone out of my way to avoid using contractions.  That is how I was trained.  I was not permitted to write using contractions.  I cannot believe how many apostrophes I have deleted over the years.  Had I known, I would have saved so much time, not to mention bandwidth.  I am glad that I do not have to worry about that ever again.  Not to mention, I will not have to spend time editing contractions out of the articles anymore.

The reason for the contraction thing is the flow of the writing is theoretically smoother and easier to read with contractions, especially on a computer monitor.  I’m (that’s my first official contraction, and look, now my second as well) a scientist by trade, so let’s (three) do an experiment.  Read the above paragraph again, and then read it as written below to see which flows better.

Now here’s the biggie.  For years, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid using contractions.  That’s how I was trained.  I wasn’t permitted to write using contractions.  I can’t believe how many apostrophes I’ve deleted over the years.  Had I known, I would’ve saved so much time, not to mention bandwidth.  I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about that ever again.  Not to mention, I won’t have to spend time editing contractions out of the articles anymore.

I vote #2, and it ain’t even close.



Ain’t is still frowned upon?


At least having to read Wuthering Heights did not, um, didn't completely go to waste.


0 #7 Peter Kreutzer 2012-02-21 02:28
If they give you guff let me know. I've got your back.
0 #6 Brian Walton 2012-02-20 22:37
Brilliant, Peter! Thanks for sharing the link.

For the record, since at least three of the posters here have to edit my work, I can now publicly proclaim my long-standing use of one space between sentences without fear of discrimination or persecution.
+1 #5 Peter Kreutzer 2012-02-20 19:51
Very funny Todd.

As you know, I edit a magazine and used to spend a good deal of time removing double spaces after periods. It used to make me so mad, which is why I so enjoyed this story by Farhad Mahjoo.


Nowadays I use Find:Replace to remove every instance of double spaces everywhere.

0 #4 Mike Ladd 2012-02-20 00:52
my wife does the editing for a quilting group's newsletter. She writes and edits with two spaces after the period. She found this article very funny.
0 #3 Christopher Kreush 2012-02-19 20:15
I had never heard of the two spaces after a period rule. But then again maybe I was the one doing the drinking.

To be sure, both Lawr and Todd have different writing styles and I equally enjoy both of them. I can only aspire to write as good (well) as both of them.

Now I'm left wondering if I should put two spaces after a period.
0 #2 Zach Steinhorn 2012-02-19 17:42
Great article! The one space after a period has become more common of late but I was never under the impression that there's one right answer, as long as you are consistent. As for contractions, I try not to overuse them but am not afraid of them either, especially in a diary format where the style is very informal.

Anyway, in the incinerator room on my apartment building floor, there's a sign that reads "Please don't throw glass bottles down the shoot." Someone must have been quite bothered by this as they went ahead and crossed out the word "shoot" and replaced it with the correct "chute." I got a good laugh out of this.

In the copy editing class I took in college, one of the books we used is called Eats, Shoots & Leaves. It's "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" and a must-read for the dying breed of grammar enthusiasts.

0 #1 Lawr Michaels 2012-02-19 14:28
Well, just in reading this I would say your writing skills are commensurate with mine.

But, a few thoughts, by virtue of the MLA stylebook, that is probably now out of date as well.

It was never against the rules to end a sentence with a preposition. That was simply considered "bad form."

Kind of like the words irregardless and snuck are not real words, but have gained acceptability due to overusage (they should be sneaked, and irrespective).

Italics for titles, but...with all the browsers having conflicting emotions, underlining or quotes work just fine still. at least as i see it.

Contractions and conjunctions just make the flow more conversational.

Finally, I did my graduate work in the 19th century Victorians, of which "Wuthering Heights" is an archetype.

I can imagine no better read, save maybe "Jane Eyre," "David Copperfield," or my favorites, "Middlemarch" and "The Mill on the Floss."

What is crazy, though, is Z sent me the graphic for today, and I loaded it before I read and edited (did not need much) his piece.

For identification purposes, I named the jpg "heathcliff."

Swear. Great one Z!

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