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Dear Otto: Should Students Space Once or Twice After a Period?

25 Jun

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Lisa:

In teaching 5th and 6th graders (I became the tech. teacher this year), do you teach them to space once or twice after periods and colons. It seems to me that what I see on the web/business world is that there is no longer a need to space twice. Yet my students’ homeroom teachers tell them to space twice. I want to teach them what is correct but I also do not want to confuse them.

A: That’s a question I get a lot–and often people are sure they know the answer, just want me to validate their two-space conclusion.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but two spaces is the floppy disc of keyboarding–we’ve moved past it. It’s not wrong; you don’t have to retrain yourself to go space instead of space-space, but with new keyboarders, teach them one space.

It started in published documents. They wanted to save room, which saved money, so eliminated that extra space, and the practice rolled into everyday use. Some people still teach two spaces, but preferred is one. And if you want to teach kids the approach that will get them through college, it’s one.

Thanks for this question. It’s one that always comes up. We need a great big bull horn to get the word out better.

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and three ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, will be out this summer. Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.


 

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  1. Hannelore MccoppinNo Gravatar

    July 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Very interesting details you have mentioned , thanks for posting .

     
  2. Thomas A. FineNo Gravatar

    December 28, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Hi,

    It’s fantastic that you acknowledge the real reason we lost wide sentence spacing, since most people mistakenly blame the typewriter.

    Unfortunately, you’ve reached the wrong conclusion. While word-spacing is standard in the print industry now, the question you are addressing has become one of computer input. The period is very ambiguous and even the best sentence boundary algorithms still make lots of mistakes. Typing a period and then two spaces after sentences provides the computer an unambiguous full stop. Without this two-space habit it’s impossible to reliably detect all sentence boundaries.

    The best solution is to enter two spaces between every sentence and then use the software to format your sentences to the desired appearance, whether that is wide or narrow sentence spacing.

    tom

     
    • Jacqui MurrayNo Gravatar

      January 5, 2013 at 9:54 am

      I didn’t know that–about the period. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

       
 
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