Ask AAL No. 2 — The Punctuation Edition
Posted on November 27th, 2012
Punctuation questions! Yes, ask me about punctuation. I love punctuation.
Question: I have an editing question for ya. I’ve always been told that there should be two spaces at the end of the sentence. Recently, I read somewhere (and I can’t remember where) that having two spaces at the end is outdated and there should only be one space. Thoughts?
Answer: It’s true. Just one space now. It’s possible to train yourself to switch to one space (I managed it easily, which surprised me), and now the only time I use two spaces after a period is when I’m texting (so that my iPhone will automatically add the period).
If you don’t want to bother with retraining, finish your piece and in final edits just do a find and replace, using two spaces in the “find” field and one in the “replace” field. In editing, I had to do this for manuscripts all the time before submitting them to the line editors. (This isn’t a bad idea to do, anyway, because often in the editing process, you’ll copy and paste a sentence and an extra space will tag along with the text.
Question: Oxford comma, yea or nay?
Answer: I love commas (when used well). I know a lawyer who litigated a case up to the supreme court of our state and back down over comma placement in poorly drafted legislation. (What a waste of money. If the drafters of the legislation just had grammarians proofreading, the state would have saved a bundle.) Also, look at the mess of the Second Amendment. Commas in the right places would clear that puppy right up. (No kidding: look at the version passed by Congress vs. the one ratified by the States.) Which is not to say there wouldn’t be debate, but it would read a lot better.
As to the Oxford (I prefer serial) comma: fuck, yes. I love them, because I think they make for more precise language. Use them proudly…except when the style guide of your state/court/jurisdiction/publication says otherwise. In which case, you do what your style guide says. Or in my case, use them anyway. (Though I guess my chances of writing for the Economist are in the toilet.)