Two spaces, and commas

Subject: Two spaces, and commas
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 12:45:33 -0500

Two spaces after periods are useful in text, particularly
online text, that uses a monospaced (nonproportional) font:
the extra space emphasizes the break between sentences.
This sends a clearer signal to the reader's brain: "you've
finished this sentence, and can start figuring out what it
means before going on to the next one." With proportional
fonts, the typography is such that the extra space
generally becomes redundant. [No research to back me up
here, but it fits with my observations and those of
colleagues. Anecdotal evidence!]

The "comma before the and" is one of those things that
changes with editorial fads. A few years back, some writers
and editors advocated a style known as "open punctuation",
based on the idea that you should reduce punctuation to the
minimum necessary to avoid confusion. I was brought up on
this tradition, and I still often fall into the habit
without thinking about it. However, after spending a few
years editing for a living, I grew convinced that open
punctuation is unreliable as a rigid rule. Yes, we should
minimize structures that depend on convoluted punctuation,
but making the items in a list distinct doesn't fall into
this category. You'll never confuse someone by using the
serial comma, and you will occasionally confuse someone by
omitting it. The conservative approach is to stick with the
comma.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.


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