Re: French group separators

From: Frank da Cruz (
Date: Mon Jul 07 2003 - 16:03:47 EDT

  • Next message: Michael Everson: "Re: French group separators"

    Mon, 7 Jul 2003 19:41:21 +0100 Michael Everson wrote:
    > At 14:27 -0400 2003-07-07, Frank da Cruz wrote:
    > > EMACS aside, it's still an interesting question why -- in English at
    > > least -- it was customary thoughout the 20th century to put two spaces
    > > after a period when typing. I expect it must have been an aesthetic
    > > decision. What else could it have been?
    > The typing habit was designed to assist typesetters in reading the
    > manuscript as they were setting type. Traditionally, the typesetters
    > never set the extra space.
    The vast majority of typewriting was done without any intention of it being
    typeset. It was business correspondence, court records, budget proposals,
    college term papers, memos, and the like. In secretarial school you would
    learn this rule. It's in Army correspondence manuals. Mass typesetting of
    everything is a very recent (and if I may say so, silly) phenomenon :-)

    OK, I did some reading on this. Google turns up many references, and almost
    all of them say one of two things:

     . Double spacing after the end of a sentence was done on typewriters for
       clarity, because typewriters are monospace, but since we don't use
       typewriters any more, this is no longer necessary. (But the period
       on a typewriter is *more* visible, not less.)

     . All references I've seen that advocate a bigger space between sentences
       than between words say "Donald Knuth does this and he must know what
       he's doing!"

    I don't find either of these arguments especially convincing. I think the
    place to look would be in a typing instruction text or style guide published
    at least 40 years ago.

    Here, by the way, is a the formal definition of a sentence in EMACS:

    A great deal of other text processing software uses similar rules.

    In any case, nowadays you can probably assume that anyone who puts two
    spaces after a sentence is either a certain age, or uses certain software.
    Or both!

    - Frank

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