Thursday, January 8, 2015

Old Pups and New Tricks

            A friend and fellow writer called this morning to discuss some manuscript issues. Like me, she learned keyboarding decades ago when it was still called typing, as on a typewriter. Period space space. 

Now she read the submission guidelines which commanded her to leave only one space after a period. Or else. She wanted to know when and why that had changed. I tried to give the answer I’d heard, but ended up telling her it was one more hoop to jump through to get the manuscript published. Now I would tell her to read the explanation at this website: There are many other articles about this fascinating topic.

Mostly she wanted to know what she could do about it other than go through 300 pages deleting spaces. She couldn’t even tell where she’d spaced once and where she’d spaced twice. The first thing I advised her was to click on the paragraph sign on the tool bar. Now she could see one dot per space between words and the cursed two spaces after periods.

We put our heads together—metaphorically speaking since we were in different towns—and figured it out. I reasoned:   I know you can use Find and Replace in MS Word to change a town’s name or a character’s name. For example, I decided to rename Mama, the hair-braiding Jamaican, Big Mama because Laney refers to her own mother as Mama. I decided my readers didn’t need two Mamas in the same chapter. Find and Replace let me do that. I usually choose Find Next instead of Replace All just so something weird doesn’t happen. 

And here’s an example of Find and Replace weirdness:  The story is told of a pastor who had recently presided over the funeral of a church member, Mary. He saved his funeral liturgy on his computer so he would be ready for the next sad event. Edith was the next to die, and the pastor went into the Word document to Find and Replace Mary with Edith. To save time, he chose Replace All.

The service went along smoothly the next day until the congregation began to recite the Apostles Creed and learned that Jesus was “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Edith…”

BUT, I wondered, could you ask the computer to find two spaces and replace them with one space? I was astonished to learn that it could be done. I advised my friend to do it in stages. First Find and Replace period space space. Then question mark space space. Then exclamation point space space. But you really can do it in one fell swoop by spacing twice after Find, spacing once after Replace, and choosing Replace All.

Some of you young computer savvy whiz kids are snorting and saying incredulously, “You didn’t know that?” No, actually, my friend and I didn’t, but now we do, and I’m sharing it with anybody else born in the stone age who might want to know. And by the way, we stone age sisters know lots of stuff about lots of stuff you kids haven’t figured out yet. I might tell you if you stop ROFL and ask nicely.


  1. Thanks for the tip, from an old pup who learned typing.

  2. Thanks, Roberta. I had to use this technique just recently. Yes, I still have many ancient mss. on my hard drive with the double space. Fortunately, I took up desktop publishing in the 90's and learned to use one space. Love the graphic with this post!