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Monday, November 26, 2007

Q&A a la Ann Landers: Let's Tidy Up Those Empty Spaces in Your Copy


Carolyn, one of the most common editing mistakes I get from writers submitting work to {Dotsie Bregel's contests at National Association of Boomer Women,] is the space after a sentence ending. Industry standards changed a few years ago and although it is an ongoing battle between the professors [academia] and publishing professionals, the standard is now ONE space before you begin the next sentence. I'm not referring to LINE spacing, but the space you put at the end of a sentence before you begin the next sentence. When we have many fine entries and time is of the essence, the lack of proper formatting like this can be a deciding factor against a particular entry.

Care to comment on that? Do you see a lot of this? I know I do.

Georgia Richardson, a.k.a. Queen JJ, humorist for NABBW, National Assoc. of Boomer Women,


Georgia, yes, these are formatting problems that editors, contest judges, and publishers struggle with. Unfortunately, many writers don't think that kind of editing and formatting is part of their business. Obviously, from what you say, it is.

The reason that the double space rule at the end of the sentence changed is because kerning is handled differently than it once was. This delicate spacing between letters and sentences used to be done by the linotype operators who set the type, and double spaces helped them make the type look nicer on the page. Now computers do all of that adjusting of letter sizes and spaces for us. To adjust to the new typing pattern is really tough for those of us who learned to type . . . mmmmm, a thousand years ago. I included information on this in the Frugal Editor for writers who can't adjust, don't want to or just want to double check their spacing before they submit.

Here's how to do it:

Use the find feature in your Word program to replace all double spaces with single ones. Here are step-by-step directions directly from sidebars in the Frugal Editor:

"You may not be able to see the extra spaces in your copy, but they can cause havoc when your manuscript is converted into a finished product. Here's how to get rid of them.

"Click on the Paragraph Icon () in your Word screen. It should be in the top row of your toolbar unless some computer-proficient type has fooled around with your options. It looks like a backward P with the little half circle colored in. Suddenly you'll be able to see all the directions you gave your copy as you typed. One little dot will appear in your manuscript for every time you used your spacebar. All you have to do is use your backspace key to delete the unnecessary ones.


"Let your find function spot the dots.

"By now you know how to use your Find Function. Select the Replace tab. Place your cursor in the Find what window and tap your spacebar twice. It will appear you have typed nothing. In the Replace with window, you'll tap the spacebar only once. Now select the third button over from the left at the bottom of the window that reads Replace All and click. VoilĂ ! Even with two apparently blank windows you will have sent a message to your computer's brain to replace all the double spacing in your document--whether between words or between sentences--with single spacing.

Caution: Before you tap your spacebar, be sure your cursor is as far to the left of the window as it can go. To do that, backspace until the little bar can go no farther left before entering your invisible spaces.

1 comment:

Elena Dorothy Bowman said...

The double space after a sentence was drilled into us years ago. Even in business the double space was a must, and change came hard. Now, however, when I inadvertently add an extra space it stands out like a sore thumb. I do believe the single space makes a more attractive page. Anyway, that's my take on it.

Elena Dorothy Bowman
Journey to the Rim of Space and Beyond

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