Something Old People Do

By the time you read this, hopefully with the paragraph markers intact, I’ll be in Arizona and on my way to Tucson for the Tucson Festival of Books.  I’m looking forward to it, but I’m concerned about my step situation. Spending hours in cars and planes doesn’t leave much room walking.

But today I have a bone to pick.  Yes, I’m a bit tottery and coming up on age 79, but I don’t think of myself as being “old.” I think of myself as … well … being.

When it comes to TV viewing my choice is mysteries of one kind or another, both true crime and not.  Naturally, when a new crime show called Elisbeth premiered last week, we watched it.

By the way, auto correct does NOT like that name, but Elisbeth (This is the correct spelling!)  is a seemingly scatterbrained but still very smart investigator.

If you’ve not yet watched the first episode, here’s a spoiler alert.  The story has to do with a drama professor who has been routinely taking advantage of the attractive young would be actresses in his program.

Part of the plot has to do with texts supposedly sent by the victims after they’re already deceased, thus making it possible for the killer to have a verifiable alibi.

Everything is going along just swimmingly for the bad guy until Elisbeth notices that the time-critical texts all have double spaces at the end of sentences rather than just one.

“See there?”  she says.  “The victim didn’t write these last texts.  All of her earlier ones only have one space.  The last ones have two.  That’s something old people do.”

Yup, guilty as charged.  In Mr. Biba’s typing class at Bisbee High School, two spaces was the standard, and I can’t seem to teach my “old dog” fingers the new one-space trick.

Over the course of more than forty years of writing and hence typing, I’ve noticed that my publishers have all switched over from two spaces to one.  Rather than disrupting my concentration with the one space/two space dichotomy when I’m writing, I wait until the manuscript is finished.  Then, before I send it to my editors, I do a global search and replace, changing all two spaces to one.

So now this “old” gal is going to go down the hall and get her packing done because she’s about to be on the road again.

I’ll bet when Willie Nelson was writing that song, he used two spaces too, so from one old gal to one old guy, thanks for that.   It’s a song that seems to work for both of us.

Please note.   The above message is entirely of the two-space variety and will remain so.

86 thoughts on “Something Old People Do

  1. It is so much easier to find the end of a sentence when there are two spaces. I also learned that way and will continue to do it!

    • Peggy Ferron:

      You Are Absolutely And Unequivocally 100% On Point With This Truly Wonderful Statement!! .. I Totally Agree And Do This Also!! (:

  2. You just gotta love us senior citizens and being set in our ways. Don’t worry about the spaces, That’s what editors job is. Don’t take that away from them.

    Love your blog as much as your stories.


  3. Best of success to you at the Tucson Festival of Books. I hope there will be a vimeo (or whatever they’re called ) of an interview or something. And I guess I’m old–well, yes, I suppose 73 qualifies–because I also do the 2-space thing between words when I’m typing. That’s been ingrained since the two years of typing I took in middle school, and I see no reason to change it.

  4. As a former typing teacher, I always put two spaces at the end of my sentences without thinking about it. I loved your blog today and look forward to reading it every Friday.

  5. Always eager to find new mystery shows it took a while to locate this one.
    It is Elsbeth.

  6. You are not alone in double spacing. This soon to be 75 year old can’t break the habit. Safe travels.

  7. I just came off a one week cruise. Even though the ship was immense I had trouble making my pathetic step count. When I got back I came down with a really bad cold or flu. So I am still not getting my steps in! ?

  8. I am not too far behind you and my teachers tried to instill the two space thing in me as well. Alas, it never took. Guess I was and am too lazy to hit that space bar twice.

  9. I still put two spaces at the end of a sentence. That’s how I learned in high school on a Royal typewriter. One thing I miss is the bell that used to signal the coming end of a line. Also the carriage return lever. It was fun to “throw” that.

    • When I was in college, I had a hybrid typewriter that had electric keys but a manual carriage. My boyfriend was frantically completing his grad school applications on that machine one night, and I brought him a cup of coffee. I handed the coffee to him, as in, I put the cup into his hand. He took a swig, set the cup down, and hit the carriage return. WHACK! Direct hit on the cup of coffee, which splattered all over the completed applications neatly lined up on the floor. I don’t miss the carriage return one bit!

      • I’m sorry that happened. I never had anything get spilled on what I’d typed. I hope you were able to get t done over in time.

        • He was accepted at U Penn, but I have no idea if that was one that he actually sent out with coffee stains or a clean one. Hadn’t thought about him in a while. I might have to see whether he’s retired at this point.

  10. Back when we were using typewriters, all letters took the same amount of width and two spaces were needed to move your eye from one sentence to the next. With variable spacing that we now have on our electronics, only one space is needed for the eye to note the end of a sentence.

  11. You want to feel old? My granddaughter lost her first tooth yesterday. (Double space!!). I asked what the going rate for the tooth fairy was. $5 to $20 !!!
    I used to get a dime!!!!

  12. I have something you might be interested in.
    I recently met John Bisbee in Edmond OK He shared that Bisbee Az is named after a distant relative. Dewitt Bisbee an attorney in California and investor inn mines was asked to help with establishment of a city in the late 1800/early 1900s and his only stipulation was to name the city after him. I’m sure you are fully aware of this but meeting a relative was a surprise.

  13. The program in question is Elsbeth. No I. I see that autocorrect went into my blog and fixed it to Elizabeth. The guy who invented autocorrect died recently. His funnel is tomato.

  14. I’m also in the “old” group that took typing in high school, but haven’t thought about the double space between sentences in years. I probably will from now on.

    Enjoy your trip to Tucson. I’ll look forward to hearing all about it in next weeks blog.

  15. I am also a 2 space at the end of a sentence kind of gal. See you Monday in Bisbee. I have not been there since 1973.

  16. I chuckled at the one-space two-space information. As one old person to another, good for you. Stick with your two-space method. I too learned in typing class that was the way a sentence was terminated and another began. I have, at times, used the one-space in web content when trying to condense. In a manuscript or book I would imagine the extra space saved does amount to something, but what’s the point. Saving a page or two? One could also make the counter argument that what’s the need for two? Whatever, I guess.

    Love your writing. Thanks

    PS: am reading one of the J. P. Beaumont (Brady) series set in Bisbee right now!

  17. I’m an 83 year old guy who learned the same thing in high school typing class. Best practical course I took in high school! Also, a two space guy.

  18. I just love ya! Yeah for two spaced typing! We rule. I hope you have the best time visiting “home”.

  19. We aren’t old. We just aren’t young anymore. In her late 80s my grandmother started telling people “I’m an old woman, I can do what I want.” That included pouring herself a glass of wine or a Campari and soda sometimes in the afternoon without saying it was “for medicinal purposes.” But apparently it was. She lived till her late 90s.

  20. I agree with you. “Old dogs” do have a difficult time being retrained! Even when I text, I capitalize the first letter in a sentence, use proper spelling, punctuation and always two spaces after a period!

    I can’t understand some of the texts the young people send now!

    I’m a one finger texter so all my texts are short. If they’re going to be long, I call or email.

    • I take pride in my sentence structure, and grammar (although my wife was best at both). So whether is is a Word document or texting, I try my best – with no shame that I’m “old school.’

  21. I’m with you! I just can’t change something I’ve done since typing class 61 years ago!

  22. Well… you have 2 years on me but that’s absolutely in the same bracket! I guess I’ve gotten lazy but it seems that the 2 spaces make the reading easier. You have not only the period (or question mark or exclamation point) to mark the end of a sentence but an additional space. It helps to not run the two together in your mind – thus, sometimes having to go back to make sense of the new sentence.

  23. I was a two-space guy because that is the way I was taught in English AND Typing classes. And I still do it on my phone, but there are times when I hit the period and just “move on”.

    As the song goes, “…it’s your thing…you want you wanna do…”.

    • A lot of texts I send and receive are one sentence or less in length. Most senders, and I confess I am one of them, skip the period on short texts. If the period were available on the abbreviated keyboard, I’d probably do it, but I have to shift into number mode, and I’m slow enough as it is.

  24. I not only put two spaces after a period I also use the Oxford comma. By the way, Elsbeth was a character on The Good Wife. She was the quirky but clever lawyer. I’m 84 and miss our snowbird house in Tucson (Oro Valley).

    • When I attended Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, many years ago there was a girl in my class named Betty Rikansrud. I’ve never seen the name since. Are you any relation? I believe she was from Decorah.

      • Yes. Shirt tail I guess. I can’t recall the exact connection. My wife, Judy, wss the geneologist in the family. She passed away a couple of years ago. I remember she was in email touch with the family.

  25. Wow! What a great blog. But, am I the only one that remembers hand writing reports (in cursive) starting sometime in elementary grades where there had to be a bit of extra space after the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next? I doubt it. I recall red check marks if the extra space was not the proper distance. This was all well before I ever got my hands on a typewriter. So, two spaces came naturally to me. I’m not gonna change, either.

  26. My fingers still double slap ace. My 73-year-old brain refuses to change.
    Keep on walking!

  27. You go, girl! We elderly people (I’m 70) have getting our points across with 2 return spaces our entire lives. That’s all that matters!

  28. I was reprimanded by a young acquaintance that two spaces are archaic and I should know better. Well, I’m an old dog and find it difficult to learn new tricks. And why do I have to when the old tricks work just fine!
    See you tomorrow in Tucson where it is currently raining…hope the weather clears up for the Festival!

  29. Come on Judy! I’m just 9 years your junior and it took me no time at all to appreciate so much less effort for my right thumb! LOL (Nevertheless, I had trigger thumb surgery on it last year!)

  30. Additional thoughts…I like Elsbeth. She’s a female Will Trent.

  31. I, too learned the 2 space in typing class ( I’m 81 and not old in my mind but apparently to a lot of the media). I space once when texting but twice when keying a letter or doc so don’t know what that makes me. I’ll read blog and books no matter how they’re spaced

  32. I Love getting your Blogs. And, I too am an old double-spacer being about 6 months older than you are!! I do it Even in text messages. I’m praying Blessings and safety and fun on your trip to AZ.
    A couple weeks ago, my hubby and I were watching a travel show on TV. Among the towns mentioned with photos, was Biebee!! So I got a small taste of the town I’ve read about for so long Thanks for all your hard work.

  33. I love this! I always do to spaces also. Same with typing class and turned 79 in January. Didn’t watch the new show but will have to check it out. It seems that I end up watching a lot of mysteries also. And the “golden years” are actually a little rusty! I admire you on being able to walk like you do. Back and leg problems have made it difficult for me to walk any distance but just finished PT and now going up and down isles in store with cart to hang onto for walking. May only be able to do for half hours some days but on busy aisles go slow on empty go fast! I haven’t given up after 50 years of having problems so not about to now! Enjoy your time in Tucson. Still miss my San Francisco Peaks! Our baby son is buried in Flagstaff, inlaws in Cottonwoid and brother in law in Phoenix. Still have nieces and nephews and grandsons there. Just rarely get to see them anymore. Our long distance driving is to MN to see our sisters 88 & 89! My sister in CA will be 91 this month. Her husband just turned 94 last month but has been in ICU after carotid artery surgery went bad because he was allergic to the anesthetic. All grandkids were there to say goodbyes this past weekend and her sons and daughter are with her as more decisions are to be made. Didn’t mean to go this route so sorry about that. Safe travels and have the best time in Tucson.

  34. Another enjoyable Friday treat to read from my favorite author. Wishing you a safe trip and wonderful time at the book festival. I also use the double space at the end. Why?? Because I’m not young either 😉

  35. I’m a 2 space gal in your decade. It’s easier to read when there are 2 spaces between sentences.
    I enjoyed Elsbeth too. Her character which originated on “The Good Wife”, remains quirky, astute and completely enjoyable.
    And of course, I enjoy you and your books.
    I am always thankful for you.
    Happy trails and travels? Take good care?

  36. OMG you are so right. Dropping the second space has been a real challenge for me also. See? Gave me a good chuckle since I have been caught by that too many times to count. One thing I did notice is that at the end of a sentence when you tap once the period appears. Then the second tap gives you the necessary space to begin a new comment.

    See us “old bats” do learn new things from time to time. Gotta love it.

    Anyhow have a great trip.

  37. Typing was the only “D” I ever received. Mr Guerra wouldn’t give me that report card; he wanted to check with Mr. Bilba. I convinced him it was correct and he relented without checking. Mr. Bilba really wanted me to have both speed and accuracy. The grade did improve, I am a devotee of the double space, even in texts. So glad that I know fingering and gained some speed. Another reason Miss Wondy was wrong about the secretary thing.

  38. Same here–two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. I taught keyboarding (typing) for 30 years at the high school level and it was always two spaces. Now it is one but this LOL will stick with two also!!

  39. I am not nearly as old as you and I learned to type using two spaces after a period. Commas get one, and periods get two.

  40. My eyes, and my fingers, definitely prefer the two-space rule. It clearly distinguishes the end of a sentence from the end of each word. I think it is harder to scan back when I need to, if the text is lacking those spaces. I don’t know why it changed. Does anyone here have a clue about that?

  41. Enjoy the Festival of Books traveling safely. Laughed when I read the two space theme of this week’s blog!

  42. Another lost space irritant for me is using only one space after a colon. It just looks wrong!

  43. LOL! I wish I could walk however many steps. Did you know if you are on O2 24/7 machine, walking from the kitchen to the front door can drop you from 95 down to if you are lucky, only 78 (slightly shaky). I would LOVE to start walking like you did but……………well……….not going to happen as I will be 86 soon. And I watched that show because I was so excited to see an older woman but it’s almost a joke. And yes, just used two spaces! I will try again to watch and maybe she will live up to expectations. So many shows and so strange. My new favorite is The Irrational. Of course, I have just finished the 1st season – DAMNNNNNNNN!

  44. I’m a two space gal and always will be! But I don’t publish anything so it doesn’t matter. I first was corrected back about 1997. I worked for a local Girl Scout council and developed the summer programs. I wrote the blurbs for each camp/program and handed it over to our PR person who compiled it into a summer camp brochure. She told me there was no need to use two spaces. Well, my brain and fingers didn’t want to cooperate, so Nancy corrected each one as she put the booklet together! She never commented on it again! Guess she figured that since I was in my 50s then that she wasn’t going to get “this old dog” to do new tricks!!

  45. I watched the show last night. It was funny and interesting. Plan on on watching it again.

  46. I’m only 55 and we learned two space as well. I’ve seemingly adapted though. Great post as always and have fun in Tucson!

  47. I watched the Elisbeth show and enjoyed it. I particularly liked the business with one vs two spaces, b/c I’m an old tw0-spacer, too! I’m looking forward to seeing you tomorrow in Tucson!

  48. At 92 I’m a two-spacer and didn’t even realize that makes me out of date!

    Bob Glass

  49. The two space thing is a holdover from typewriters and monospace fonts. With typesetting and proportional fonts, the two-after a period convention was not needed, as the typesetter (or computer) “knew” how much space was needed after punctuation based on the period and the letter that followed it.

    • I guess that’s why my eye is not more disturbed by the change. I’ve been looking at spaces ALL DAY because of this!

  50. When did we stop double-spacing???? I truly am out of touch! Have a great trip

    • The double space thing was for typewriting, which early on used mono-spaced fonts (all symbols the same width–later on IBM Selectrics started supporting variable-spaced fonts).

      Since most stuff we type in these days displays in a variable-width font it is no longer needed, and in fact looks funny to those of us who got forced to drop it by subsequent training. (also, if what we type is displayed in HTML, an occasional line break that falls on the two spaces preserves the second one which then appears as a small indent on the next line!)

      • This a bit off topic, but a friend of mine was the secretary for the chapel office at the college I attended. She had an IBM Selectric typewriter with several elements or balls. She kept the extra ones in a file folder titled “Balls”. She didn’t think the chaplain would think it was funny so didn’t tell him.

  51. This was hilarious to read because I saw that first episode and I also have been trying to break the habit of two spaces at the end of a sentence. I will be 74 in a couple months and don’t think of myself as “old”, but that is such a hard habit to break?

  52. We always sing “on the road again” when we launch off on a new adventure. Love it!

  53. Thanks for this….I was in school in WI approximately the same years as you. I learned a lot in my one room country grade school and had the best English teachers in high school. I also use the 2 space and will continue to do so as long as I can type!
    As an aside I just turned 79 November 1st and lived in Tucson for 25 years. Your Bisbee was one of our favorite places to hang out.
    Thank you for all your books!

  54. Well, I’m really behind the times. I didn’t even know the one space thing was a “thing”. I do 2 & had to type a sentence to verify that. Well what do you know-I thought I was probably doing 1 space after all this time using an IPad with no keyboard. I had Jerry Dabler for typing & I was one of the star students- 120 wpm on the old manual Royals. Served me well as a bank teller, executive assistant to my mining engineer husband & chief resume/cover letter writer when a job ended & the search began for the next assignment. Did loads of work on my portable electric, then our first desktop computer. Finally taught my hubs to use that & relieved myself of being his resident typist. Oh happy days, now I can pursue my artistic passion ???

  55. I was taught to double-space after a period, too. But I got cured of it when, in the 1970s I started working as a typographer.

    As a former typographer it bugs me when I see even young people doing it. One way it shows up is if a line break happens to appear at the two spaces, in a HTML page, which drops the first space when it breaks the line but leaves the second one in as a tiny, but visible indent in the text.

    So, at this time of my life it remains one of my (too many) pet peeves!

    But I won’t hold it against you, I love your books too much to disrespect their author!



  56. I don’t have much of an opinion on spaces, because I don’t think I was ever taught how many to have- I took typing, but have no memory of learning the rule-
    I am about to turn 75, so I guess I do whatever others around my age do-
    I did not go to a normal public high school, so perhaps that is why I am so ignorant about this- In fact, I went to a school that did not teach us cursive writing either, for some strange reason- As a result I have sort of created my own version of cursive, which is by no means understood by normal people who learned real cursive in school-
    I am also someone who tends to stick with the “Old” way in most things, so I feel that you should do whatever feels right for you- I basically ignore what young people
    say is the correct way- So far that has worked for me!

  57. Let’s hear it for 2 spaces! lol I too learned properly in typing class, and in cursive class even, to leave those extra spaces—and I’m only 75! ;). But I want to tell you that my iPhone automatically leaves a period at the end of a sentence when I tap two spaces. Then only leaves one space for a new sentence. It was maddening to me at first, but now I am trained. Woe is me.

    So much has changed in many areas of life since we all were born, but much of the change is taking our youth downhill. Sad.

    Enjoy yourself immensely on your trip, JA <3

  58. I would have to go back constantly due to always using 2 spaces! I can even remember my teacher scolding for not using 2 spaces.

  59. It is a shame that too many people have enough time to worry about this! As for me, to each his own! Why does one or the other have to be wrong – why can’t it “just be”?

  60. I thought of you as soon as I watched Elsbeth & her “old people do 2 spaces” speech. Oh honey that’s not all old people do.

    My typing teacher drilled it into us that 2 spaces were to go after each sentence. She also talked about pica & elite – saying both words with a long i. I remember thinking isn’t elite supposed to be pronounced with a short i – an “e” sound for those of you who don’t remember your vowel sounds. Of course I’d never correct her. One did not do that in those long ago days.

  61. A quick comment about Elsbeth, she was on several other lawyer type shows as this same character so we really liked her then and enjoyed her first episode here too.
    I understand the 2 spaces as well as that is what we were taught. Old Dogs new tricks… I don’t know 🙂
    I enjoyed your Blog as always, thank you for sharing with us and I hope you get in your steps.

  62. I, too, was taught two spaces at the end of a sentence. And I am sticking to that no matter what anyone says. There are times when there is only one space one doesn’t realize that a sentence has actually ended. So I am in your corner – let’s keep the two spaces going. Some things just don’t need to be changed – at least for us older folks. (By the way, I will be 82 next month.)

    • I am 82 and do a lot of writing about family history and, yes, I do 2 spaces. No question; no changing.

  63. Sounds as if Elsbeth could be a female Columbo?

    I was learning typing in Jr. high and it was 2 spaces. Not that I did that well at it.
    Here is my conspiracy theory for this week, I think that the one space instead of two is the brainchild of the inventor of Evelyn Wood Speed Reading. Anything to help us NOT remember anything we have read.

  64. Love your blog and I too am a”2 space” typist. And even stranger, the show is “Elsbeth”, no i at all. The Tucson Book Festival is one of the best I have been to across the country.

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