Stop using double spacing after a full-stop. Period.

Finally, some good news!

Word is going to start showing double spaces after a full-stop/period as a mistake, preventing the daily howls of frustration from copy-editors worldwide who are continually having to find/replace the damned things.

(And yes, I know lots of people were taught to type with a double space after a full-stop. I was too – because I learned on a typewriter, which is where this came from: to improve the kerning and create more readable text. Computers / word processors are rather more sophisticated than typewriters – they sort the spacing out for you. This means using a double space on a computer actually *increases* layout issues – especially when justifying text – so achieves the precise opposite of what people who do this think it does.)

I’m fairly flexible as an editor most of the time, but along with *always* advocating the Oxford Comma, killing post-period double spaces is one of the few editing hills I’m prepared to die on.

When writing is a matter of life and death

Behind the Economist paywall, sadly, but this is the key point – always worth remembering beyond the current crisis, and something a number of political leaders need to learn:

“Recommendations that sound more advisory than mandatory seem to presume rational adults will do the right thing with accurate information. The central insight of behavioural economics is that they do not…”

Clarity of messaging is more vital now than ever – it’s become a literal matter of life and death. “Practice social distancing” is vague, confusing, advisory. “Stay home” is clear, unambiguous, mandatory. Guess which has worked better?

This is also a lesson we should take with us after this crisis has passed: If you want to be understood, make your point as clearly and plainly as possible. Otherwise you have no one to blame but yourself when people don’t pay attention to what you’re telling them – or, worse, start believing simpler-sounding misinformation.