Today I share a tale of periods, questions marks and other punctuation poorly served by those who come after.
If you are tired of the national dialogue about the number of spaces that must follow an end punctuation, I urge you to walk away from today’s Change of Venue Friday post. But I warn you: You may be part of the problem.
What brought the topic to my front burner was our own writing-columnist, Susie Salmon, penning a piece on the space issue in the March 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine.
Susie’s piece, as always, was well written and in need of zero editing (o’ course). And I was pleased to see she was attacking the scourge afflicting our nation.
Until I got to her second graf. That’s where she reported:
“I remain agnostic … when it comes to what may be the biggest punctuation controversy of the modern era: how many spaces to insert after the punctuation at the end of the sentence. When I present to groups of attorneys, paralegals, or secretaries, I can be certain that at least one person will ask about the issue and that several people in the audience will have strong opinions one way or the other. Because I do not believe that the number of spaces after a period materially affects the accuracy or clarity of my written work, my personal rule is simple: Pick one option and be consistent.”
I must admit: I gulped deeply when I read that. Had my unfettered support for the First Amendment run its course? Could I—would I—strike the offending language and urge a better course of action upon readers?
Well, if you read the published magazine, you’ll see that I did not impose my own position on Susie’s column. But I was nervous: Were we encouraging a randomness among readers that would lead to sentential chaos? (Yes, I made up that word.)
This week, I saw that my worries were well grounded.
Outside the work space of a Bar colleague, a page from the magazine was posted proudly. Always pleased to see magazine content shared and touted, I strolled over to Sarah Fluke’s desk—and promptly gulped again. You can see it posted below (click to biggify.)
There, in the upper-right corner, Sarah had encouraged a vote on the 1-space/2-space question. Look at it; I mean, LOOK at it!
Dangerous democracy, I thought. But then I spied the emerging ballot results. As of yesterday, I am sorry to report, the votes rested at 9 to 7—in favor of two spaces.
Sarah is a wonderful colleague and is adept at delivering terrific continuing legal education. But here, in black and white, I thought I spied an abdication of her educative goals.
She, of course, is having none of my 21st-century nonsense and believes two spaces are absolutely fine. As I expressed my dismay, the conversation devolved into something along the lines of “Go away. Move away from my desk. Stop looking at my things.” (Vast and ridiculous amounts of space added in Sarah’s honor.)
My CLE colleagues may disappoint, and so I turn to you, my progressive readers. Please put aside your past experiences and your memory of my sad but true interactions at the Bar. Read the simple query below, and vote. The future of our nation hangs in the balance.
Have a wonderful—and space-conserving—weekend.Follow @azatty