The debate rages on: one or two spaces after a period?

LawProfBlawg at Above the Law argues in defense of two spaces, linking it to a simpler, easier, pre-smartphone time: “I think the single spacing crowd is comprised of people who are always rushing someplace.”

Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, prefers one space, and notes in Business Insider that most style guides, coding platforms, and typesetters do as well. “Everyone who makes the rules today agrees: It’s a one-space world.”

Another case of old man shouting at kids on his lawn?

Is this discourse simply an excuse for grammatical one-upmanship, or does that one extra space really make a difference?

A matter of style

By Deborah Gaines
President, Deborah Gaines Associates

Every company needs a style guide. And everyone employed by the company needs to know about it.

As the name implies, a style guide is a compendium of rules for language usage at a particular organization. It can (and should) include everything from the correct spelling of the company name to guidelines for appropriate descriptions of minority group members.

It’s time to sit down and draw up that style guide.

I’ve worked at publications that create their own guides from scratch, sometimes running 200 pages or more. But most places do just fine with an existing style guide supplemented by a list of exceptions and words specific to the organization.

In the United States, the most popular guides are the Associated Press Stylebook, favored by journalists and other language-forward types, and the more traditional Chicago Manual of Style. If you write for an international audience, check out The Economist Style Book, which offers a handy section on Americanisms and has the added advantage of being free.

Whichever guide you choose, your company should have a frequently updated, regularly circulated list of addenda to make sure all employees—especially those responsible for external communications—are on the same page.  I’ve been called in to compile these lists, often after some publicly embarrassing incident, and I can tell you that employees desperately need them.