I recently involved myself in a discussion I have been engaging people in since the mid 1970’s. The Topic: Is it one space or two after a period when word-processing? The topic resurfaced after @smartinez, a highly respected educator and Tweeter, sent out a link to a post explaining the rule. http://www.slate.com/id/2281146/ According to Farhad Manjoo, Old-fashioned typewriters used monospaced type, which produced a lot of white space between characters and words, so using two spaces after a period made the text easier to read, but as of the 1970s, monospaced type went out of style. Electric typewriters and computers now both use proportional fonts, eliminating the need for the extra space. This fact prompted this statement, “Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.”
Now for what happened after I re-tweeted that link to the post that validated the very position I have taken since the 1970’s. A number of people stepped up questioning, if that was important, or if anybody really cared. Some said that they had always done two spaces and will continue to do so. That was the attitude that set me off. I would like to say that it matters not to me whether one uses one or two spaces. Of course my experience and prejudices affect my impressions of things. I guess ultimately it does matter to me, for I will form an opinion of a writer somewhat based on my perception of their punctuation mistakes, however, I do see a larger topic here.
It should be evident to any thinking person that our society, or more accurately, our culture is greatly affected by technology. Tech is developing and moving forward each and every day. At almost any age any person can think back this or her past and recollect some piece of technology that has ceased to exist, or was replaced by another form or piece of technology. That is the way of our world. Technology has changed the way we all deal with information. Consider how we access, create, communicate, and collaborate and ultimately think about information in our culture. There is no going back in the way tech affects everything. The bigger picture however, is not solely the tech itself, but how we interact with that technology.
The reason why we have one space instead of two after a period is because the technology has developed to a point where the two spaces are unnecessary. Some people may want to hang on to the old way as a revolt against the machine, but that makes no sense. In their revolt, do they choose to take a Conestoga wagon to travel across a continent, or do they take a 747? How much rebellion is convenient or comfortable?
Now, I hope to get to my point. At the risk of sounding arrogant myself, I hate the arrogance of some educators, who actually believe that they can teach children today with absolutely no regard for technology, or its influence on our culture. It is true that a good teacher can teach with a dirt floor and a stick with the stick being optional. A good teacher with technology however, can offer more relevance to students in a world that will require them to constantly interact with technology. A good teacher with technology can be better. As our tools change, our methods for teaching need to change accordingly. We cannot ignore the fact that our society will require the use of technology and it is no longer the choice of the educator to teach with it or not. We are moving beyond accepting handwritten or even typewritten reports in our society. Therefore, we need to employ those rules which are required by the tool which we require people to use.
If we as educators are teaching children to function within a technological society that is constantly changing, we must educate our children to use those tools. We must also strive to teach and model the ability to adapt, since those same tools will continue to develop and change. A big problem we as educators, have is that we do not even understand what specific skills are going to be required of our students, because in many cases, the jobs they will have, do not yet exist. Without knowing of the jobs, how do we address the skills needed to fill those jobs? We as educators need to at least be relevant to our students if we stand a chance of giving them what they will need. We have a responsibility to assess what we do and how we do it. We no longer have the luxury of choosing what or how we remain comfortable teaching. We have a greater responsibility to our students that goes beyond our personal comfort level. We need to adapt our teaching skills and methods to address our students’ needs.
We have a responsibility to develop professionally. What we learned before we got our degrees and licenses has changed and continues to do so. We need to stay relevant in order to move our students forward. The amount of information is daunting. Not addressing it and not trying to get a handle on it does not keep technology from moving forward. The longer it takes educators to accept it, the further down the road it will move and the mountain of what we need to know will continue to grow.
In the world of today’s educator, he or she may choose to put two spaces after a period. In the world that will exist for their students however, there will be a different set of rules, determined by technology, requiring one space after a period. We must teach them for their needs and not ours. Yes, every educator has the right to choose to live in a cave. They do not have the right to drag their students in there with them.
Okay educators, your choice, one space or two after a period?