Thursday, January 20, 2011

Around the Word

Today we're looking at words and the spaces between them:

"If you type two spaces after a period you're doing it wrong," writes Farhad Manjoo, striking fear in the hearts of double-spacers everywhere. In Slate, Manjoo traces the origins of our collective error back to the manual typewriter. "To accommodate that machine's shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do." But while the Chicago Manual of Style, the MLA Style Manual, and "every modern typographer" agree that one space between sentences is the way to go, even Manjoo admits that the custom is arbitrary. Still, he argues, it's no more arbitrary that double spacing, it's more aesthetic, and--despite what some double-spacers might have you believe--there are "no studies or any other evidence proving that single spaces improve readability." How do you handle your spacing? Anyone ready to jump to the defense of the double space?

From now until February 5th, the Oxford English Dictionary Online is celebrating their redesign by offering full access for free--and you don't need to be in search of a definition to take advantage. suggests meandering through the history of words by browsing OED's "lengthy etymologies."  The Boston Globe's Jan Freeman similarly attests to the fun of etymological adventure, but points out that the real gift of the new OED Online is that it's "easy to look for things you may not have known you wanted." For the next two weeks, you can log on for free at using "trynewoed" as both the user name and password. But if you get addicted, you aren't necessarily doomed to shell out the $300 annual fee--a library card from an institution that subscribes is all you need.

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