Muscle Memory is the Source of All Evil (Extra Spaces, Anyway)

When you type, how many times do you hit the space bar at the end of a sentence?  Do you double tap or single tap?  Two keystrokes or one?

A friend of mine sent me this link Space Invaders by Farhad ManjooThe article made me think about my own space bar habits.

If you learned how to type on an electric typewriter like I did, there is a good chance that you double tap.  Unless, you have trained your fingers not to do it.

The old typwriter monospace requirement of two spaces between sentences is hanging on with every fiber of its being even though the electric typewriter that required it has gone the way of the dinosaur.  Typing classes are called “Keyboarding” and fonts play nicely with spaces.

So why is it that some people get all twisted when they see that double space between sentences in emails or letters or other correspondence?  Does it matter that much in those situations?

The space bar redundancy is overkill in print.  More spaces on the page means more pages to print.  Writers are told to remove all extra spaces from manuscripts or submissions.

But I can’t help it.  I catch myself typing that extra space.  All.  The.  Time.

It’s muscle memory drilled in since 9th grade typing class.  Double tapping the space bar is an automatic thing that my right thumb does immediately after my right ring finger presses the period.

There’s no controlling it.  If I think consciously about stopping after the first space bar keystroke(which I’m NOT going to do when I’m pounding out a new draft), then I find myself going back to remove the now-frowned-upon roominess.

Diana Beebe's Blog, Diana Beebe, science fiction, middle grade fantasy, fantasy
Random sentences from my MG manuscript (STATE SECRET KEEPERS) with extra spaces…

For my day job, I use MadCap Flare (best help authoring tool ever, IMO. I’m certified MAD, so I may be biased). Flare ignores when my thumb hits that extra space. I can let my muscle memory take over and keep my typing speed up around 50 words a minute. (I’m no speed demon, but I’m fast enough.)

In other writing tools (Scrivener or Word), if I think about that stupid, extra space, my typing speed slows down and my errors increase. How is that productive? I may not have extra spaces, but it takes me longer to get there.

If I retrain my typing muscles to do only a sinlge space, I can save a stroke at the end of every sentence. I can get back that number of keystrokes in actual words! My friend and I both double tap because that’s how we’ve always done it, but I’m rethinking that now.

Here are a few reasons to change to the single space:

  • Write more words!
  • Save a tree. Fewer spaces means fewer pages to print. Not a big deal for letters, but huge when revising long manuscripts.
  • Avoid having to search and replace all double spaces in a Word document.

What’s your typing style–are you a single tapper or a double tapper? What do you think about the space debate? Did you notice when I stopped using double spaces?

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