Answer Man

Using extra space after a period while typing nowadays is a crime

Remember the typewriter?
Remember the typewriter? Tribune News Service

Q. A few friends and I are having a minor disagreement. Some say that when you are typing, you should leave two spaces after a period before starting the next sentence. Others say one is just fine. Is there an official standard?

— Helen Palmer, of Fairview Heights

A. Take it from a professional writer who struggled to break himself of this bad habit: Although the use of two spaces apparently is still widespread, every major style manual on the market says computer users should save themselves a millicalorie by punching the space bar just once — no ifs, ands or buts.

I honestly do feel the pain of contrarians, though. As I learned to type in a hot third-floor classroom at the old Belleville West High School during the summer of 1968, Ruth Mueller drilled into me that I needed to put two spaces after every sentence within a paragraph.

Even though the practice had been on the wane, there still was some logic to her old-fashioned ways on the keyboard. At that time, typewriters (most of you remember those clackety, mechanical monsters, don’t you?) used “monospaced type.” That’s a fancy term which means every character takes up the same amount of horizontal space, whether it is a w or an i. What you wound up with was text with lots of extra space between certain words and letters. So to better alert readers to a new sentence, typists using those old Royals and Underwoods were told to leave two spaces between sentences in the same paragraph.

Anyone who uses a computer knows that’s no longer the case. We now have dozens upon dozens of typefaces to choose from, all of which are “proportional fonts.” That means each character’s width varies depending on how wide it really needs to be. So, for example, there’s none of that extra ugly white space between, say, a t and an m as there used to be on a typewriter. As a result, only one space is needed after a period. In fact, it produces a cleaner, neater look to your printed text.

If you don’t believe me, take it from such style bibles as the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style. Yet, like me, I know it will take those for whom the habit is ingrained some self-flogging to rid themselves of the archaic custom. But if you do, people 30 years from now won’t be picking up your two-space copy and saying, “My, how ugly.”

“When I see two spaces, I shake my head and go eye-yi-yi,” Ilene Strizver, who runs a typographic consulting firm known as The Type Studio in Westport, Conn., once told “I talk about ‘type crimes’ often, and in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment.”

Close call

When I recently wrote about the imminent return of roving reporter Bobby Hughes, KTVI-FOX2 was understandably reluctant to offer any details on the medical reasons for his absence out of privacy concerns. But after returning to the station last Monday, Hughes readily talked about how close to death he came.

Hughes said he was experiencing leg pain after aggravating an old back injury, so he went for an MRI at St. Anthony’s Medical Center in St. Louis. What the scan found shocked both Hughes and the doctors. His abdominal aorta — the large vessel that carries blood from the heart into the legs and the rest of the body — was bulging from a weakness in the vessel wall. If such a bulge bursts, your chances of survival are almost zero unless you happen to be in a hospital and can be rushed into emergency surgery stat.

As in Hughes’ case, there usually are no symptoms. About 200,000 such cases are diagnosed each year and 15,000 people die.

In those with about a 5-centimeter (2-inch) bulge, there’s roughly a 10 percent chance of rupture within a year. Hughes’ was even larger at 6 centimeters when it was found. Quickly a procedure was scheduled in which surgeons inserted a device known as a Gore Excluder stent graft into the weakened vessel to relieve the pressure on the artery wall. The procedure takes just a couple of hours and almost all patients go home the next day.

Hughes’ recovery took longer because he also underwent surgery to fix his back problem, but he is back behind the wheel of the station’s Nissan Rogue Runner. It is suggested that those with a family history of such aneurysms or smokers might want to talk to their doctors about a quick ultrasound test that can uncover the problem before it turns into a potentially fatal emergency.

Today’s trivia

What inspired legendary record producer Phil Spector to write his 1958 No. 1 hit “To Know Him Is to Love Him”?

Answer to Thursday’s question: Fans of the movie “Ensign Pulver” are treated to snippets from a movie that doesn’t exist. In one scene, the crew of the USS Reluctant are seen watching “Young Dr. Jekyll Meets Frankenstein,” but the film is actually a fabrication that mixes a few new shots with footage from “Walking Dead,” a 1936 Warner Brothers movie starring Boris Karloff and Edmund Gwenn. Karloff and Gwenn are listed in the “Pulver” credits — as is Morgan Paull, who was filmed as the young Dr. Jekyll specifically for “Ensign Pulver.” Paull, who died in 2012, is much better known for his work in such films as “Blade Runner” and “Norma Rae.”

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or call 618-239-2465.