Saturday, February 26, 2011

Are You a Two-Spacer?

Once More With Feeling

Are you a two-spacer? I admit that I am. That admission, according to James Snider who holds an MBA in Marketing at The University of Texas, dates me. In a recent UT blog post he says it is a clue to how old I am and more.

“If you put two spaces after a period in a sentence, it tells me that you learned to type on a typewriter,” Snider says. “If you are in the habit of putting two spaces after every sentence, you might consider removing that extra space from your resume. It is dating you.”

It’s probably true.

In the seventh grade in Dallas, I was handed a blue book entitled “Manual of Standard Usage in Written Work” produced in 1959. I still have it.

Nowhere in it does it mandate that there must be two spaces after a period, but I’m sure that Lakewood Elementary School teacher Mrs. Brubaker said to do it. If it wasn’t she, it was my typing teacher in my senior year at Woodrow Wilson High School.

The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, published in 1993, is silent about spaces after periods too.

My Associated Press Style Book doesn’t address the question of spaces after a period, but regarding punctuation, it is seen as a courtesy to readers. “Think of it as a courtesy to your readers, designed to help them understand a story. Inevitably, a mandate of this scope involves gray areas. For this reason, the punctuation entries in this book refer to guidelines rather than rules. Guidelines should not be treated casually, however.”

While the columns of the AP Stylebook are justified, it appears that there is only one space after their periods in a normal entry. Is this an inference on their part? My edition of the stylebook was published in 1977, long before social media.

Texas-ex Snider, says Twitter is one of the reasons why one space after a period is now acceptable in all but academic circles. Twitter only gives you 140 characters to make your point. Every space equals a character, you know. So, eliminate them wherever you can. Right? Facebook limits the characters in your “Status” too. So, after the period, it’s one space. Period! Is social media dictating our punctuation nowadays?

Writing for Slate, Farhad Manjoo in January this year makes it clear, he’s a space hater. “I've received press releases and correspondence from the biggest companies in the world that are riddled with extra spaces,” Farhad writes. “Some of my best friends are irredeemable two spacers, too, and even my wife has been known to use an unnecessary extra space every now and then (though she points out that she does so only when writing to other two-spacers, just to make them happy).”

“Samantha Jacobs, a reading and journalism teacher at Norwood High School in Norwood, Col., told me that she requires her students to use two spaces after a period instead of one, even though she acknowledges that style manuals no longer favor that approach. Why? Because that's what she's used to. ‘Primarily, I base the spacing on the way I learned,’ she wrote me in an e-mail glutted with extra spaces,” Farhad says.

Farhad also cites space-hating pros.

"A space signals a pause," says David Jury, the author of About Face: Reviving The Rules of Typography. "If you get a really big pause—a big hole—in the middle of a line, the reader pauses. And you don't want people to pause all the time. You want the text to flow."

Mr. Farhad seems to see punctuation in news stories and even personal email in black and white terms. No. Like my copy of the old AP Style Manual says, usage of punctuation is a gray area, allowing change and perhaps growth.

Yes, I learned that two spaces after a period was the right thing to type when you write. I do believe that the spaces are a courtesy to the reader, making it easier on the eye. Yet, when I tweet, yes, I only use one space.

I’m obstinately “old school”, but I want it both ways.

© Jim McNabb, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Austin Post Gets Aggressive

The Austin Post

Making a Major Move

Looks like The Austin Post is getting off of the porch to run with the big journalism dogs.

The Post, while continuing to court unpaid bloggers like me, is hiring professional staff to cover the important news of the day.

This move will set them apart from the competition. This aggressive approach will move The Austin Post beyond being a repository for those who have an opinion and want to blog about it. Hiring staff has the potential of making the AP a viable news medium in Austin.

The Post philosophy at its inception was to open the doors to Austin writers with the idealistic belief that the news that matters would blow in on the wind. Yes, reports about important events have been posted, most of the time, written by Editor Karie Meltzer.

Look at the page today ( and see if there is anything about the angst at the Austin Independent School District budget work sessions and the impending impact on hundreds of educators who may learn that their jobs are gone, not to mention the confused students who will be caught in the middle.

Find a story about the inane actions on so-called emergency items at the State Capitol.

You can’t.

Why? It takes reporters sitting through meetings, interviewing newsmakers, and sifting through stacks of paper. I love Meltzer’s promise to potential reporters: You’ll be “part of an adventurous and growing online newspaper where originality is valued as much as accuracy.” Now, we’re talking Journalism.

This significant move is counter what has become the industry norm. They are hiring, not cutting. They are trying to do more with more while others continue trying to do more with less.

I’ve written and said many times that reporters equal content, and content draws an audience. The unique fact that The Austin Post is willing to “run with the big dogs” and write original, compelling stories should draw readers. If my theory is right, it should result in readers and viewers.

These multiplatform reporters will be shooting still pictures from a different angle than one might see on another site. Further, they will be shooting video. It won’t be just “talking head” video. It will be Austin in motion. It will be interesting to see the bylines.

All of this comes from the mind of Meltzer who sold her bosses at Trilogy on the concept. She wants stories that go deeper than just "He said, she said." She’s asking a lot from a small staff (See her story, “The Austin Post is Hiring…”), and Austin will benefit from it.

While volunteer writers will still contribute the pieces that are the stuff of Austin, real, multi-platform reporters will be on the street with laptops and cameras finding original stories found only in The Austin Post. Will it stifle the current contributors? I don’t think so. It might make them better. I was writing this journalism/media criticism blog before there was an Austin Post. The professionalism should rub off on them. Further, as the audience grows, so will their exposure.

So, I applaud the Austin Post for daring to do what no others do at the local level. So, while the Texas Tribune may be the go-to site for state news, the Austin American-Statesman and The Austin Chronicle web sites have competition.

And here’s the cool: The Austin Post is not for profit. They aren’t beholding to anybody. Bookmark it.

© Jim McNabb, 2011