published Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Fortune: In pursuit of less space in 2014


by Mary Fortune

I don't generally make New Year's resolutions. It's not that I don't need improvement; I need substantially more improvement than most people. But when I decide something about me needs to change (more salads, less f-word, extra push-ups, stop tailgating), I typically just go ahead and change it — with varying degrees of success. Who needs to wait for a new year to fail to become a better person?

However, I have decided to make two New Year's resolutions for 2014, mostly because they are things I want to do anyway and hey, look, it's almost the new year.

First thing: Watch one TED Talk a day. TED Talks (www.ted.com/talks) are terrific, and watching them illuminates entirely new parts of my brain. I will elaborate on this resolution in just a minute. Hold that thought.

Second thing: Go forth and teach everyone in the whole, vast world of typed words that there is only one space between sentences. One. Space. Just one, you guys. One.

I have spent my entire adult life making words appear on paper and on screens. I earn actual dollars from multiple sources for doing this thing with words. I even teach others to do this thing. But for some reason, some people don't believe me when I tell them the simple, undeniable, nonnegotiable truth that there is one space between typed sentences.

My job involves a lot of editing. I routinely remove extra spaces from between otherwise inoffensive sentences. It's an easy little find-and-replace trick. But some people put the spaces back. I politely tell those people they are completely and utterly wrong and living a lie and deluded and hopeless, and I offer them my pity as well as my wisdom. Oddly, they hesitate to accept either of these things.

They send me emails: "One space? No. That is not what I learned in school. You're wrong."

And I write back and tell them that perhaps they also learned in science class that Pluto is a planet. And perhaps they learned in geography class that the USSR is a place. During home economics, they may have learned that women should aspire to a life of apron-sewing and cake-baking. And maybe they even learned in composition class not to start sentences with "and." And I tell them that none of this information is true.

Some of this information may have been true, or at least conventional wisdom, at one time. But things change. Typewriters, for example, are almost entirely gone from the workplace. Fonts have been refined to allow each letter to occupy different amounts of space based on the size of the letter, which makes it much easier to detect the beginnings and endings of sentences. The USSR fell in 1989 and dissolved in 1991. Women do all sorts of interesting and challenging jobs. Pluto is just not a big enough deal to be a planet. And: One. Space.

So, yeah, I'm going to fix that in 2014. You're welcome.

On the TED Talks thing, as I mentioned, I'm going to watch one a day in 2014. They're short, enlightening and they make me a kinder, more broad-minded person. They leave me with a deep appreciation for the world around me and the infinite potential of each of us and of every day we're given. And if I watch them, maybe I won't yell at people as much about my other New Year's resolution.

Happy 2014, everyone. Peace on Earth. Save the space keys.

Contact Mary Fortune at thirtytensomething.blogspot.com.

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