Rules of Typography: Then and Now

Editors, designers and others in publishing are often deliberative in selecting typographical attributes like kerning and typeface. But for most of us, creating an email or Word doc is simply a matter of getting the words on the page. Still, there are some typing pitfalls to avoid as you prepare documents. Schools offering Visual Communication degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

The Right Amount of Space

Are you a one or two spacer? That is, do you use a double space to separate your sentences? Chances are that you use two spaces instead of one. This may be force of habit - many high school and college writing assignments require students to use a double space after each sentence. But the origin of this rule is outdated, and you should make an effort to switch to a single space instead.

old fashioned letterpress

Double spacing was once the norm to address issues with monospace type, which was standard for typewriters. In monospace, each character gets the same amount of space, regardless of size. For example, an 'i' and an 'o' were be given equal room on the page, even though they have different widths. This resulted in type that was often oddly spaced, and it could be difficult to tell if a sentence was distanced properly from its predecessor. The two-space rule was developed to make it clear that a space had, indeed, been inserted between two sentences.

Few modern computers use monospace type. It's a feature you can opt for in some email and word processing applications, but it is not a common default. Most modern style manuals, including the Modern Language Association's guide, call for single spacing. Spacing may not be something that jumps out at you, but some people definitely notice such details. Plus, hitting the space bar only one time after each sentence is more efficient. If you are a two spacer, consider making the switch down to one.

All Caps, All the Time

Have you ever accidentally sent an email with incorrect capitalization, lIKE tHIS, fOR eXAMPLE? Are you sick of reading blog comments in all capital letters, or seeing other abuses of the caps lock? You're not alone. This typographical faux pas has led to many commentators voicing frustration. In fact, some critics of caps lock are lobbying for the key to be removed from keyboards altogether.

caps lock

As with double spacing, caps lock is a relic of outdated technology. The key, once called 'shift lock,' was created because it made it easier to create capital letters on early typewriters. In these early models, like the 1878 Remington No. 2, users would have to hold down a shift button to make capital letters. It was difficult for users to hold this button down while typing, so the shift lock was introduced.

Today, we don't really need caps lock because the shift key makes capitalization so easy. As a result, some computer-makers are leaving the caps lock key off their keyboards. Google is one such manufacturer. For its debut computer, the Cr-48 notebook, a search key has replaced the caps lock key. This may have been an efficiency choice more than a style mandate, but it very well could prove something that catches on among other manufacturers.

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