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?

Are you following my new blog site yet? It’s super easy! Thanks for your support. 🙂

38 comments on… “Muscle Memory is the Source of All Evil (Extra Spaces, Anyway)”

  1. I still find myself double spacing in comment sections like this one. But, I’ve finally trained myself to single space when writing my book. All those red marks gave me hives. 🙂
    I did notice your double spaces. 🙂
    Fun post!

    • Diana Beebe

      LOL. Hives are not worth those extra spaces and red marks! 🙂

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  3. I didn’t even know it had changed with the advent of computers until I “corrected” a younger friend during a beta read. Totally embarrassing! Good luck retraining that thumb.

    As for my style, I’m all for the double-tap. . . . Sorry. Had to make that self-defense joke. 🙂

    • Diana Beebe

      Young wippersnappers! LOL. I loved your self-defense joke, by the way. I could’ve gone in a completely different direction if I’d thought of it!

  4. I learned on the old typewriters like you did. I’ve actually retaught myself for the most part. I’ll often do a search at the end for double spaces and find I managed a double tap in there several times. It’s a PITA. I’m getting there, though, thankfully. ModCap Flare is a little out of my price range. 😉

    • Diana Beebe

      Retraining for that one keystroke is a PITA, I’m learning that. Yep, Flare is a little pricey if you’re not a tech writer. It’s a good thing my job pays for it. I love it and don’t ever want to go back to some other help authoring tools. 😉

  5. Ugh! I’m a double tap. I’m consciously trying really hard not to do it in these comments. It’s tricky. I learned to double tap in school too, so this change is going to be very frustrating. My head hurts now… Maybe I’ll just end everything with an ellipses… What do you think?… That won’t be annoying at all in a book will it?… LOL

    • Diana Beebe

      I dunno… Sounds like a great idea… Editors might freak though…

  6. I’m a double tapper too! As you can tell from my posts, so I poked around and it doesn’t look like there is a setting nor can it be put into the AutoCorrect rules in Word.

    Maybe you could do that in the Spelling and Grammer checker so at least it would give you a rule error on that. Then you could do a find/replace?

    • Diana Beebe

      I use Find/Replace in Word. I haven’t looked to see if Word has a setting to do it for you in automatically–that would be cool. Can you imagine if Word saw that space as an error–the file would look like a grammatical nightmare. Green and red squiggly underlines everywhere. LOL.

  7. Well, I’m old as dirt. LOL and trained to type the old way and never type two anymore, so I hope that gives you hope. The thing is, it just saves time on the back end to not have to deal with them, no matter how you remove them. Now that I’m indie publishing, I’m the one who has to find and fix things. So, yeah, saves time. LOL

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  9. I used to be a double-spacer, ever since elementary school when I learned to type, but when I first heard that the double space was going out of style I made myself learn the new single space. Now I can type just as fast with a single space as I used to with a double space.

    It doesn’t bother me to see double spaces unless I’m critiquing someone’s work. Then I’ll point it out because I know they’ll have to take it out eventually anyways.

    • Diana Beebe

      Good for you for being proactive! I’ve been a bit oblivious about creeping into all sorts of writing, but I suppose there’s a natural progression to it if everyone gets into the habit.

  10. So I’m not a writer and trying to save space, but I am a double tapper. I love the extra separation from the previous sentence. I didn’t know it was taboo anymore. In fact, I was forcing my younger son to place them in his recent type written report :). He looked at me like I was from a different planet when I told him to put double spaces at the end of his sentences. I guess I can now officially apologize for making him put in the spaces everyone else is trying to take out! I guess I am not smarter than a 5th grader in this instance.

    • Diana Beebe

      It’s like new math! Our kids are learning stuff at school, and we have no clue how to help them. LOL. “Well, when I was in school…” I’ve said it!

  11. Another double tapper here who is trying to reform. (Doggone it, I put two spaces at the end of that sentence!) Maybe we should start some sort of support group, call it Spacy People. Like so many others here, I had no idea the double space had fallen out of favor. My 10th grade typing teacher has a lot to answer for. 🙂

  12. My typing style includes a splint on my left ring finger. Had it there for 2 months and will have it there for 1 more. It has reduced my typing speed from 65 wpm to 3.5 wpm (and caused issues when my wedding ring was supposed to be placed effortlessly on my finger). I continue to hit the Caps Lock button along with typing keys with my right hand before they are needed. Taking off my splint to type (my finger is almost healed – snapped the tendon on top of the first knuckle), I am now at a speedy 50 wpm.

    Regarding the double space after each sentence, I retrained my brain (which controls my muscles) to only hit the space bar once. It is merely a trip to the brain science wing of your psyche. Anyone can master the switch to single space, including you, dear Sister. Just start creating a new synapse which you can label “Single Space Silly” by reminding yourself every time you double space to single space. The double space synapse will eventually shrivel and die and the single space synapse will grow strong and save the day.

    I’m glad you brought up this “double space” issue. I’ve been thinking about when I’m supposed to use that rule and didn’t take the time to look it up. I’m glad I don’t have to think about it ever again.

    L o v e,
    B r o t h e r

    • Diana Beebe

      LOL. You are a nut. Believe it or not, the retraining to use only one space has been moving along quite nicely. 🙂 I’m sorry the splint made for an awkward ring exchange moment though. It’s something you guys can laugh about later.
      L O V E,
      S i s t e r

  13. Ooops. I’m a double spacer. It’s so hard not to double space. But I’m working on it. Unfortunately I have multiple manuscripts to fix, too!

    • Diana Beebe

      Search and destroy those things! Use Replace All to hit them all at once. 🙂 Good luck!

  14. When I learned about the change from double- to single-space sentence breaks, I was sure I could never adapt. Yet I have. And I’m surprised how quickly it took hold. For a while, I had to think really hard about it, go back and correct on the spot. It was grueling, but within a few weeks, I was there.

    I do think it looks better. But I wouldn’t correct someone on anything other than works to be published. Double-space away on comments, emails, whatever. As long as the manuscript goes to print with single spaces, it’s no big deal.

    • Diana Beebe

      Julie, I agree with you about the spaces in normal, everyday correspondence. It’s not even a grammatical issue. 🙂 Learning to be a single tapper is coming along, but I do have to backtrack often. You give me hope that it won’t take too long.

  15. I used to be a double-tapper too, until one day formatting I discovered that those extra two spaces before a new paragraph I decided to make while editing could cause line jumps in the e-book! Not to mention I later realized how ugly it looked in the print versions too, so I retrained myself. It actually didn’t take long, no longer than a week. I also trained myself to leave absolutely no spaces at the end of paragraphs. It makes e-book formatting SO much easier down the road.

    • Diana Beebe

      It sounds like you figured this out on your own. Clever! I needed a cattle prod, evidently.

      Thanks for the tip about spaces at the end of a paragraph. I had no idea!

  16. Looks like the double tappers or rehabbed double tappers are unanimous here! I’m old as dirt like Pauline, and then some, and I learned on an electric typewriter, too. Isn’t it something that they call it keyboarding these days?

    Like Pauline, I retrained myself and no longer double tap. I’m glad we don’t have to use carbon paper to make copies of documents anymore. Those days sucked when there’d be 7 carbon copies and I’d make a mistake and have to go through and correct every copy, plus the original. No fun. I typed slower than usual just to avoid those darn typos. We’re so spoiled nowadays, huh?

    • Diana Beebe

      Spoiled is a huge understatement. LOL. I remember being giddy when I got to use one of the class typewriters that had correction tape.

      And you and Pauline are too young at heart to be as old as dirt. I’m not just saying that because I have more “when I was young…” moments than I used to.

      • I was reading Jenny Hansen’s blog this morning and found out that, not only am I old as dirt, but I’m a crone to boot! LOL

        Ah, the correction tape typewriter. My first novel, the heroine is resisting the “new” tech of the time: a word processor. A typewriter plays an important part in the story. Fast forward to it being republished (it was written and set during the FIRST Gulf War – Bush 1) and I get a reviewer comment that “no one would use a typewriter anymore.” I had to laugh and blink at how fast things changed. I typed my first story on my grandmother’s old, old something. I remember I was exhausted after a couple of paragraphs because you really had to pound those keys to get them to hit the paper. LOL

        • Diana Beebe

          The novelists who wrote their books on a typewriter must have had incredibly strong hands and fingers. No wonder we call it “pounding” sometimes!

          McGee on NCIS, wrote his first novel on an old manual typewriter. I bet there are people out there who use them still.

          Something happened with your commentLuv link, so I’m putting a link here to your most recent post. Loved, loved, loved that post!

          • I thought McGee was CRAZY to do that! LOL But I loved that episode where the internet went down and they had to do the investigation old school, complete with mimeograph machine! Talk about a blast from the past. We used to run off our high school paper on one of those. O.O

            I am glad you enjoyed the blog post, Diana and many thanks for the link love! 😀

          • Diana Beebe

            That was a great episode! Remember sniffing the memeographed pages? LOL. I can almost smell it now. 😀

  17. John Holton

    I used to space twice because I also learned to type that way (I learned on a manual typewriter, by the way). Since I started typing one-handed, it’s easier to just leave one space.

    • Diana Beebe

      Thanks for sharing, John. I can only imagine having to relearn how to type with only one hand!

  18. I did not originally learn double-spacing. Later on, when I had to use it, I remember that a serious effort was required to stay consistant through an entire project. So, with my first computer I quickly slipped back into my old, lazy ways. LOL

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