Never ever double-space — ever

Doing research through old microfilms of the Optic, at Highlands’ Donnelly Library, I soon thought of abandoning the project — for several reasons.

For years, a laboratory somewhere would take each issue of the Optic, photograph it and convert it to a 35mm reel of film that contained the days’ news. But that didn’t make things perfect. Too often, there were pages out of order, pages that simply didn’t copy well, and lots of blotches that forced us to guess the content therein.

The microfilm machines — considered high tech in the ‘50s — were big, bulky, hot, noisy and fuzzy. But the main problem was magnifying the page sufficiently to make it legible. The manufacturers, it seemed, had removed the bottoms of Coke bottles and used them as lenses for the microfilm machines.

I examined some of the original copies we had at the Optic building on Lincoln Avenue and discovered that much of the material needed to be examined through a strong pair of eyeglasses, or a magnifying glass.

In those days, most newspaper type was much smaller than it is today. Most copy was set in 8-point type, which is tough going for anyone over 50. The Optic’s body copy today contains 10-point type. And yesteryear’s publishers, in their zeal to include everything on the front page, sometimes packed in as many as 20 articles. Compare that with the three or four stories today.

Remember when the rule for any first-year typing student was to space twice between sentences? At Immaculate Conception High School, our typing teacher, Sister Mary Maquina de Escribir, was merciless when detecting any assignment with even a single single space. The rule was two spaces, “and don’t you forget it.”

I’ve told friends that I can guess a person’s age on the number of spaces between their sentences. It’s simple: If you’re under 50, you single space; if over 50, it’s a double space. No exceptions.

When I worked on the sports page at the Optic while still in high school, I dreaded receiving a fir, fin and feather column from a local outdoor sportsman whose column included no (as in zero) spaces between sentences. I never met the writer, who otherwise wrote well, and I asked my boss to request that the writer insert at least one space — preferably two — between sentences.

That didn’t happen. The boss argued that “we’d be tampering with the man’s creativity” if we dared alter a single comma. But in defiance (and I never got caught) I routinely inserted the missing space. I still believe my boss at the time was wrong in insisting that we not make changes to submitted copy.

For example, trying to be creative, one person sent a letter to the editor that she’d painstakingly typed in the shape of a rather bald Christmas tree. I retyped it as regular text and that same day received an angry phone call from the writer, who said something about “stifling creativity.” I got ignored when I told the caller we’re not publishing Saturday Review.

As a beginning typist in the ‘50s, I grew up in the double-space-your-copy era. Why? Simply because in those days, it looked neater when we’d hit the space bar an extra time. Anything else made the copy seem too crowded. But tastes change.

I was teaching journalism at Highlands more than a decade later, around the time our oldest son, Stanley Adam, and a whole generation of youngsters became addicted to computers and word processors. The new norm, my son said, was to double space between sentences. “But how can one break a habit they’ve had for 15 years?”

Stan assured me: “Just try it.” His advice took hold, I kicked the habit overnight, and today, my eyes cringe at every sighting of two spaces in a row.

In those days, we needed to retype any copy submitted to the Optic. We didn’t have fancy scanners capable of converting stuff from typewriters into finished newspaper copy. Nor did we have the luxury of a word processor that saved us the trouble of erasing or crossing out errors.

At the time, few of us dreamed of today’s ability to send copy electronically, have it printed at a remote location and made ready for distribution in just a couple of hours.

I owned a small weekly newspaper in suburban Chicago back in my youth — that was more than 50 years ago. No, there was no need for a printing press. Instead, a man I hired would set the type, return paste-up sheets to my office, and we’d lay out the paper that way.

And that operation, which at the time seemed the ultimate in technology, now seems antiquated. Farhad Manjoo, a writer for Business Weekly, recently wrote a column titled, “Why you should never, ever put two spaces after a period.” Among other things, he wrote, “typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly and inarguably wrong.”

Manjoo later adds, “I’ve removed enough extra spaces to fill my forthcoming volume of melancholy epic poetry, ‘The Emptiness Within.’”

While it’s true that single spacing allows a teeny bit more copy on the page, nobody will buy the belief that doing such will save our precious forests.

For whatever reason people — especially the younger generation — now accept the conversion to single spacing. We can all burst with pride as we declare: “It looks neater that way.”

• • •

Chris Martinez, a life-long friend who was my classmate at Immaculate Conception School in Las Vegas, recently became a widower, as his wife, Corina, passed away. I barely knew Corina but am acquainted with their daughter Christina, a teacher at West Las Vegas High School.

Chris and I spent much time together in our youth, studying, playing sports, telling jokes, camping, serving together in the local National Guard unit, and much more. Chris himself is battling long-time medical issues.

Many people know Chris, who’s served, among other things, as a police officer, city employee, soldier and banker. I hope Chris recovers from the loss of his long-time partner.

May pleasant memories comfort you, my friend Chris.

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