Getting Your Message

26 Aug Getting Your Message

In the relatively young world of public relations, I’m considered senior (i.e., “old”) at just over 40 years of age. I don’t need to be reminded of this. And yet, I have been, time and again, by one simple writing rule: putting a single space after a period as opposed to two.

According to this post, double-spacing after the end of a sentence is a sure sign that you were around when Moses received the Ten Commandments. According to the article, double-spacing was ingrained in us old folks back in the days when typewriters – those old-timey things that used actual ribbons – were our primary writing tools. Typewriters did not know how to automatically adjust to a desirable typeset; thus, double-spacing helped the reader delineate where one sentence ended and another began. With computers we no longer have that worry, making double-spacing unnecessary.

Apparently, this double-spacing thing is an actual thing, one that’s driving all kinds of debate. Take a look at some of the comments to that article; people are ready to fight for their right to double-space, darnit! Apparently, there has even been scholarly research conducted on the subject (did taxpayers actually fund this?).

The first I had ever heard about the double-space rule was roughly a year ago. Up until someone called me on it, I was blissfully unaware, throwing caution to the wind and double-spacing the heck out of my content. Thinking back on it – what a fool was I! Surely, I must have been driving editors crazy with my carefree, lackadaisical ways.

As it turns out, the single-space rule has been in practice for a while now. According to Ragan’s PR Daily, sometime in the mid-2000s, it appears the AP Stylebook – the bible for all PR professionals – called it: “Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.” As the author of the Ragan’s piece wrote, “so, let me get this straight. It all boils down to the fact that I’m…old?”

Yes. Yes, it does.

When I discovered this (not that I’m old, which I knew already, but the horrible truth about spacing), I became very concerned. What other style rules have recently changed? Is there anything new that I should be aware of? Where are my parachute pants? Is Duran Duran actually still together??

More digging revealed that there have been some significant changes to AP Style guidelines over the past several years. Some of the more notable ones include:

  • Names of states must be spelled out in press releases. No more abbreviations, folks – you need to figure out how to correctly spell Massachusetts after all. Some caveats: abbreviations are still OK in datelines, photo captions, and lists.
  • “Over” and “more than” are now interchangeable. AP used to state that “more than” had to be used as opposed to “over” when describing something in excess of something else (for example, “The company has been in business for over 10 years” would have been unacceptable). Thank goodness, since no one seemed to follow this rule, anyway.
  • “E-mail” should now be written as “email,” always and forever.
  • It’s “Web site,” doggone it – never “Website,” and most certainly not “website” (don’t even think of using that lowercase “w”).

Those are just a few. There have been many more over the past couple of years, but too many to illustrate here. And they keep coming; the best way to keep up is through the AP Stylebook’s Twitter feed.  I hear that’s what all the kids are using these days – oops, darn double-space!

In any case, if you’re planning on writing your own press release anytime soon, you’ll want to keep these things in mind. You’ll also want to know about THIS:



Pete Larmey
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