Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You can't see it, so why is it important?

For no good reason lately, there's been a rash of people grumping again about how many spaces are "proper" to put after a period.

You can't see it, but everything I type for this blog has two spaces after every period, and it's going to stay that way. You know why?

Because it doesn't actually matter.

Listen, I get the arguments that we should start teaching that it's proper to only put one space. Because the idea of putting two spaces was due to an outdated technology (specifically, typewriters, which is where a lot of our randomness comes from, including how our keys are laid out, or so I've heard). Okay, we change with the times, that's cool. Kids today already pretty much know how to type from birth, so I can't imagine we have typing classes anymore, but sure, let's teach them that you put one space.

After all, with the code for most webpages, it doesn't actually even recognize the second space half the time. Or at least that was the way of it back in the day when I did HTML coding by hand.

Because you see, I'm also very old school when it comes to how long I've been doing this stuff, and that's why I think we need to lay off of people about this whole thing. No, teachers in communications classes shouldn't be teaching two spaces.

But we also shouldn't act like it's incorrect either. At the moment, because we're in a transition, BOTH are correct. It's like fish or fishes. It's not wrong, people who put two spaces aren't evil, and getting angry about it or even cranky is actually really dumb. Save your energy for something important, like defending the Oxford Comma.

I used to type about 60 WPM when I was in middle school, and it was through a sort of slapped together hunt and peck style coupled with so many years experience that I just knew where the keys were. But I looked at the keyboard, and despite being fast by the standards of the day, it wasn't as great as it could be. Then I took a typing class because it got rid of a requirement for school, and the teacher forced me to learn to "touch type" or whatever the kids today are calling it. Proper typing technique, fingers in the right places, not looking at the keyboard, all that fun stuff. She actually put stickers on my keyboard so that I couldn't see the letters anymore.

I learned to type not just faster, but twice as fast. I can get to 120 WPM without even trying that hard these days, and actually at the moment my typing speed is one of the things I can use to earn money. It's a marketable skill, the fact that I can type so quickly. And I do it because I don't actually think about it. It's all muscle memory and mostly unconscious. I don't think out "now I need to type B, here's the B, now I need to type E, here's the E." I just think the word and then it's there on the screen because I've practiced so much that this is the way it is. My typing speed is a necessary part of my life, and again, it makes me money.

Part of that typing speed is that I don't think when I put a period at the end of a sentence. I just hit the space bar twice and move on because I'm not actually thinking about anything that my hands are doing, it's a weird disconnect when you think about it, but there it is.

So if you're going to sit there and be snotty and sneer at somebody for putting two spaces at after a period when I do that because I'm actually REALLY GOOD at what I do, then you just come across looking like a jerk. Just shut up and ignore how many spaces are there unless there's 3 or 50 or something, and move on with your life. The teenagers will put what they want to put, and in twenty years we'll be doing something else entirely. They're already changing communication entirely, just let them do it and be the old fogy who does what they want anyway.

So let's get back to arguing about the Oxford Comma. Because I will defend that one to my last breath.