The Space Between (DMB Blows But I Like the Pun)

Part of my persona as a completely pretentious A-hole and general connoisseur of all things snobby is being really douchey about peoples’ spelling and grammar.  Yes, I’m That Guy…you know that guy that everybody hates for calling people out in public for any of the following:

*Using the “words” irregardless or nother (as in “a whole nother”), the phrase “I could care less” (when you mean you couldn’t care less), etc.
*The differences between it’s/its, they’re/their/there, to/too/two, who’s/whose, your/you’re, et al.
*TyPiNG lIkE tHiS oR aNy VaRiAtIoN tHeReOf
*General apostrophe usage

There are countless more examples, but you get the idea.  Chief among my expectations for anyone over the age of 10 (in addition to having mastered all of the above) is doublespacing between sentences.  For those of you unfamiliar with that term and/or practice, it’s the very simple grammatical rule that says you are to use a single space between words, and two spaces to separate sentences (this is not to be confused with doublespacing a paper, which refers to the space between entire lines of words).  Or at least that’s how it USED to be.  I was sitting down preparing to write a rant about how furious I was that every single website in the universe — and most other modern mediums for e-communication — are automatically eliminating that second space between sentences when you post something.  However, that rant was cut short when I did some research (a rarity for my blog postings, to be sure) and found out that the updated MLA site says that a single space betwixt sentences is now the norm.  WHAT?!  Just to be sure I wasn’t losing my mind, I double checked my own personal copy of the MLA handbook (that I was forced to purchase in college against my will — I believe that unless you’re an English teacher or a journalism professional, no one really needs to own that book — just being moderately well-read will give you all the general grammatical/spelling knowledge you’ll ever need in life), and found that as recently as 2004, two spaces between sentences wasn’t just the norm — it was the rule.

So a simple rule changed, what’s the big deal, right?  That sort of thing happens all the time.  True, but that’s not the part that bothers me.  What I find upsetting is that this particular rule change seems to have been brought about by the will of the masses, versus any real need for an update.  The fact of the matter is that in our world of increasingly smaller font sizes and the ever-shrinking devices on which we view them, that extra space between sentences really makes it much easier to distinguish sentences (and therefore thoughts, topics, etc.) while reading.  But in an apparent effort to save space (literally) or maybe just out of sheer laziness, people have shunned that all-important second space and through sheer popularity, that’s become the norm.  Folks, that’s not what a RULE should be.

If something is a rule, it needs to be enforced as such until a time when it becomes necessary to update said rule for a good reason (or reasons), and not just arbitrarily at the whim of the masses.  Imagine, if you will, that cannibalism became incredibly popular in parts of our western culture.  Eventually, as it gained popularity, people would probably notice that other people were being killed and eaten a lot more frequently than before.  This would cause a problem because murder is illegal, and even though there’s probably some very tasty people out there, you can’t just kill them and eat them simply because they might be delicious.  Now imagine that instead of enforcing the rule that murder is illegal and putting all those cannibalistic jerks in jail, if the powers that govern that sort of thing went ahead and just legalized murder because it was popular among most people, and saved the time/hassle of correcting all those cannibals/murderers.  You would be outraged — or at least I hope so…if not, remind me not to come over to your place for dinner.  You’d be likely to rally all your non-cannibal friends and protest, or move to Canada (where cannibalism has been legal for decades, but at least they regulate it).  Why would you be so outraged?  Because we inherently know that just because something is popular, doesn’t make it right.  So it is with the rule of the double space.  That may seem like an awfully extreme example for something as marginally important as an extra space, but losing that battle is only the beginning of what could become much worse.  Reforming our grammatical and spelling rules just to appease the (largely brainless) masses is the nasty sort of habit that we should all want to avoid unless we want words like “n00b” and “lolz” added to Webster’s Dictionary.  Note: I died a little inside when they added “ain’t” several years back…what, exactly is that word a contraction of, pray tell.  Aids and not?  As in, “I hope I aids not the father of this child, Maury”?

Hopefully these changes won’t be affected in my lifetime, and I’ll go to my grave with all the imagined self-righteousness I can muster, and proper semicolon use on my tombstone (“Dustin Heveron, 1983-20XX. Father, brother, son; also kind of a pretentious douche”).  But for my kids, their kids, and their mutant offspring (I figure by three generations from now we’ll all have been radically effected by decreases in ozone, increases in electronic/nuclear/radiation exposure and have either rad superpowers or radder superdeformities), the stand against the self-inflicted ignorance begins now.  Join our ranks…or forever live with guilt of knowing you contributed to a world where college essays are written like twitter updates (“lol whaaaatt! U tried on mad stuff I would hope there a go. Lolol but its ya bday so if u c somein betta why nott!” — an actual tweet from user dopegirlny, chosen at random. I die).

I don’t want to stifle creativity, and change is the lifeblood of any sort of improvement or innovation, so I’m not saying we should hold to tradition just for tradition’s sake, either — or that the occasional made up word can’t be a poignant addition to the English language (all words were made up at some point, Shakespeare alone is credited with inventing something like 15,000 new words), I’m just saying we need to know why we’re doing what we’re doing.  If you really feel compelled to start a movement to bring about a grammatical change, just have it be for a better reason than “everybody else is doing it” — that’s all I ask.

Until I can construct another 1,100 words’ worth of run-on sentences while breaking the same grammatical/spelling rules I claim to love adhering to so much, be well.

Peace, love, and rock.
Dustin

P.S. Exceptions can always be made for typos/genuine mistakes, everyone misses something every now and again, and shouldn’t be judged harshly for being human.  Except for Howard Stern, who should be judged harshly and regularly for everything he tries to pass off as intelligence/entertainment/language/dialogue.

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3 thoughts on “The Space Between (DMB Blows But I Like the Pun)

  1. Jess J says:

    I was going to be an equally pretentious asshole and leave a snarky comment pointing out this typo: “Join our ranks…our forever live…” You covered your bases with that post-script, though. ;)

    All douchiness aside, I can totally relate to the grammar thing. I mean, I’m a journalism major. We would take quizzes on the MLA handbook.

    P.S. Sorry I haven’t used two spaces between sentences. It was drilled into me by four years of classes and writing for the campus magazine to be a one-spacer. You do give a solid argument, though!

  2. jared says:

    while i appreciate your stance and fully agree with your general thesis, i feel i should clarify something about the 2-space rule. i learned the following in a print production class i took at Bowling Green State University:

    the 2-space rule has been eliminated because technology has improved over time. that rule was created back when we were still typing on typewriters and other such primitive devices. a few years ago however, Microsoft Word decided to 2-space after sentences for us. so now when you ‘space’ after a sentence, that single space is extended to a double.
    i don’t know that this technology has been adopted by every word processing tool (such as this comment box i’m writing in currently), but as far as “formal” documents go, you can save your thumb some work.

    that said, i noticed your comment box doesn’t 2-space after my sentences… i have a technology for sale that could do that for you if you’re interested.

  3. yeah, i mean, my argument here isn’t that i looooove double-spacing betwixt sentences as much as it is that i was taught my entire life (including college) that double-spacing was the standard (i too was a writing major, with a journalism minor), and then they just changed it on us without really telling anyone or giving some sort of reason. like I linked to above, the MLA website was updated — but where’s the update for those of us who don’t check the MLA website more often than once a decade? anyway it just seems like an awfully big change to not be covered by anyone. but oh well, just add it to the list of things that our children will learn that were different when taught to us (“they taught you Pluto was a PLANET when you were in school, grandpa? jeepers.”).

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