Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks – Part 1: Fonts and Spacing

I am so old that back when I was in high school learning to type, a computer took up a whole room. To type a school paper you used a typewriter, a device that many of today's children may never have seen).

Much of a typing class was spent learning how to lay out a document. Students learned the rules for spacing, paragraph format and page layout. Times have changed with the use of computers and word processing software, but many of the old-time rules are still used. Unfortunately those rules help to produce documents that are impossible to correctly format in a modern word processor. I will take a look at some of those old rules over the next few blog entries and show you the current way to handle text in a wide variety of applications.

We will begin with spacing after punctuation marks such as periods, colons and semicolons.

Back in the days of typewriters, most had a "well" of bars that contained the letters. Click here for a picture. Each of these bars were the same width and so all letters produced by the typewriter were the same width. The font produced by using the typewriter is called a monospace font today. Here is a example of what type would have look like along with the same line in a proportional font
I am so old that back when I was in high school learning to type, a computer took up a whole room. To type a school paper you used a typewriter, a device that many of today's children may never have seen).

Much of a typing class was spent learning how to lay out a document. Students learned the rules for spacing, paragraph format and page layout. Times have changed with the use of computers and word processing software, but many of the old-time rules are still used. Unfortunately those rules help to produce documents that are impossible to correctly format in a modern word processor. I will take a look at some of those old rules over the next few blog entries and show you the current way to handle text in a wide variety of applications.

We will begin with spacing after punctuation marks such as periods, colons and semicolons.

Back in the days of typewriters, most had a "well" of bars that contained the letters. Click here for a picture. Each of these bars were the same width and so all letters produced by the typewriter were the same width. The font produced by using the typewriter is called a monospace font today. Here is a example of what type would have look like along with the same line in a proportional font

Now is the time for all good computer users to update their ways. There is only one space after a period on a computer!

Now is the time for all good computer users to update their ways. There is only one space after a period on a computer!

The first line is set in Courier, a monospace or non-proportional font that is still in use on computers today. Every letter, space and punctuation mark is exactly the same width. Other monospaced fonts that may be on your font list today are Monaco and Prestige Elite. The use of these fonts is discouraged in current computer usage. They are more difficult to read. In order to make it easier on the eyes, typists were taught to use two spaces after a punctuation mark (except for a comma).

Today, almost all fonts included on a computer are "proportional." The second line above is set in Georgia, a modern typeface that is far easier to read. In a proportional font, each character has its own width. While a "w" is very wide, an "i" is very narrow. Using the old rule of two spaces after a punctuation mark just does not "look" right. See the paragraphs below.



If you are using two spaces after punctuation marks, it can be a bit difficult to learn a new trick. You will have to consciously think about using one space and even as hard as you try, double spaces will sneak in! Here is a technique to eliminate those ugly double spaces.

In almost every application there is a Find command in the Edit menu.



Choosing that command will bring up a dialog box similar to this one.



Although you will not be able to "see" what you have typed, put two spaces in the box labeled "Find:" Put one space in the box labeled "Replace with:". Click the Replace All button and most of your double spaces will be eliminated.



However, if you put two spaces after periods, sometimes three or even four spaces may sneak in. So click the Replace All button as many times as it is necessary to see a dialog box that reports "Not found."



I had been using a typewriter since I was about 14 years old. Today, I still use this trick to make sure that no double spaces have snuck into my writing. It is one extra step, but text with only one space after punctuation tells the world that you are a modern computer user!

There is so much to learn about computers and the programs we use on them. If you would like to get on the fast track to being a better computer user, consider some personalized training. When I am not writing articles for MacMousecalls, I am often helping our clients at Bob LeVitus Consulting. We not only offer troubleshooting and technical assistance, but also individual tutoring. We use Mac Helpmate, an application that allows us to "see" your computer and even work your keyboard and mouse without having to come to you.

Personal Macintosh training costs $60 per hour and can be scheduled at a time convenient to you. Give us a call at 408 627 7577 or send an email to urgentrequest@boblevitus.com the next time you want to learn more about using your computer!

blog comments powered by Disqus