Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Keeping It Proportional

What do you do when you get to the end of a sentence? Add a punctuation mark, and then hit the spacebar. The question is how many times do you hit the spacebar?

Many people who learned to type on a typewriter add two spaces. People who learned to type on a computer keyboard are taught to include only one space behind a punctuation mark. So why are keyboard typists taught to use only one space? Proportional spacing!

When you type on a typewriter, each letter is roughly the same size, which means that each letter takes up approximately the same amount of space. You need to add two spaces behind punctuation marks so that the punctuation is clearly visible to your reader.

When you type on a keyboard, each of the letters is a different size. An M or a W is wider than an I. In addition, when you hit the spacebar, the system inserts a standard-sized space that is wide enough to create the visual break your reader needs to see any punctuation.

So does this really matter? Adding extra spaces increases the size of your documents. When you consider that the extra spaces on a page routinely cause paragraphs to move to the next page, you have a situation where you are using extra pages; that is, more paper and ink…which ain’t cheap! Larger documents can also limit your ability to post them in places that impose size limits. You don’t want to squander the space you have on a site with empty spaces in your document.

So if you want to use less paper and create smaller documents, examine your habits. If you find that you use two spaces, use the Find and Replace to search for two spaces and replace them with one space. You’ll tighten up documents considerably without affecting readability.

b.t.w. When a tech writer applies for a job, one of the first things that happens is a search of their résumé for double spacing. Having them in your résumé is a quick kiss of death…Babe, you ain’t gettin’ this job!

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