What started by a simple Facebook posting about good grammar turned into a virtual cyber-throwdown. I found an article on Slate stating that people should cease to hit the space bar twice after a period ending a sentence. The article asserts that people began to use two spaces because of old typewriters; it made it easier to distinguish between sentences when reading. Yet these typewriters were retired in the 1970's, meaning the need for two spaces evaporated with them. And yet, almost 40 years later, many people still hold to this antiquated practice. Interestingly enough, my brother informed me today that the American Psychological Association (protectors of the APA style of writing papers) still requires two spaces. A little investigation on my own revealed that this decision was a recent reversal, and was supposed to be limited to drafts.
Regardless of where you come down on the spacing issue, step back and look at this: the reason we started two spacing was a way of adapting to the current technology. But then the technology evolved, making two spaces unnecessary, and teachers everywhere still continued to enforce the statute. You have to wonder why, and the only explanation I have is the what that drives my perplexity about all of this:
BECAUSE THAT IS HOW I WAS TAUGHT.
Like most of you, I was taught many a thing throughout my youth. Even though mine was a public education, I feel that my school district did an above average job of giving me the tools with which to succeed. I had a wide range of teachers—some excellent, some pathetic—but, regardless, I was stuffed with knowledge. As a tribute, I still keep my (miniature) high school diploma on my desk at work.
But over the years, I came to discover that some of the things I was taught throughout my youth was incorrect.
I don't blame the teachers for purposely leading me astray; remember: these were the days before the worldwide web. Specific nuggets of wisdom were more difficult to verify and wives' tales and rumors were passed down through generations as if they were the law. Technology has now given all of us access to unfettered information and we can now fact check for ourselves things that sound fishy. SIDEBAR: this is why many of you still need to bookmark Snopes in your web browser. I'm tired of your emails telling me Facebook is shutting down on March 15th.
You see, as I grew older, I figured out how to distinguish between fact and fiction. I "traded in" incorrect knowledge for more accurate fare and continue to go about my life. I fully recognize that I'm not done with this process. I'm sure there are things I know to be true today that I will discard in the future when they're proved to be false. It's how life works.
Perhaps this speaks to the point of the recently released study of college grads. New York University sociologist Richard Arum spent the last half of last decade studying a group of college students. Almost half of the students made no improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills after two years time. After four years, thirty-six percent of the students still hadn't developed. They went through higher education, but did not advance in their thinking. I hope they at least mastered Call of Duty.
We're approaching an era where merely possessing facts won't cut it; more and more people will use the interwebs as their factual cheat, similar to the way we use a calculator for mathematics. But it will be critical that people are able to discern fact from opinion and run with it. Those who cannot will be mired in the past and be viewed like someone . . . well . . . who still uses a typewriter.
You might have been taught to use two spaces but it's time to give it up. Live in the now, man. Live in the now.