Jun 26, 2020

One Space or Two? The Meaningless Debate Continues

A Tampa lawyer is obsessed with punctuation. Oh, do hire him!

By Ed Goldman

As you know, for decades “RDA” has meant Recommended Dietary Allowance, to indicate roughly how much fruit, grain, protein, minerals and, possibly, S’mores, should be part of most people’s daily consumption. Now, thanks to a lawyer in Tampa (a place that, thank God, they keep in Florida), RDA has a new meaning for me: Ridiculous Damn Arguments.

This is because the lawyer, Duane Daiker—and yes, that sounds like the name of a family member on “Duck Dynasty”—is making a campaign out of how many spaces one should leave after typing a period. He favors two. Most of us use precisely one unless, as in my case, we work at keyboards that apparently drink after hours and, once we sit down to use them, can still be a bit out of control. (Caution: If this occurs, do not attempt to remedy the situation by pouring black coffee into your computer. The result, predictable when it comes to the chaotic use of caffeine, will be your, not your computer’s, staying up for days as you impatiently wait for word from your tech repair person, who works from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, eating S’mores all the while.)

To return to the absolutely idiotic matter at hand, Counselor Daiker has his own podcast, apparently because he wants to build a worldwide audience for this terribly important cause. According to the Wall Street Journal, he recently brought onto his show the author of a series of best-selling books called “Grammar Girl.” Her name is Mignon Fogarty (which sounds like an elk dinner the “Duck Dynasty” gang might consider a little too big-city). Anyway, she proved to be an unapologetic proponent of using a single space after a period, joining such usage arbiters as the Associated Press (whose stylebook is followed by most U.S. newspapers and, to a degree, this column), the Chicago Manual of Style, the American Psychological Association (which has a respected style guide for writing academic papers), Microsoft and even the Wall Street Journal itself.

Defeated, Daiker took what he might have imagined was the high road, saying on tape, “I’ll have to decide whether or not to leave this on the podcast, right?” I’d like to believe he was kidding—though I suspect that anyone who considered this a relevant discussion topic at the time of an international pandemic, national unrest and the kind of economic vagaries that could make 52-card pickup sound like an intelligent game, might simply have too much time on his hands. Period.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).