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Home » The Vine

The Vine: February 11, 2009

Submitted by on February 11, 2009 – 6:16 PM69 Comments

Hi Sars,

I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this, but I don’t have the sources to back me up: I’m doing a couple of different volunteer things that require me to receive and sometimes edit text from other people, and I keep on running into people putting two spaces after a period.

Now, my understanding is that two spaces was proper when people were using typewriters, non-proportional fonts, etc, and now that most things are printed in proportional fonts having only one space is standard. However, I don’t want to start editing the hell out of people’s stuff if it’s just a matter of preference, as opposed to something that should not be done…have to walk carefully around these volunteer-type people.

So, can you/Garner/Webster’s back me up and give me the authority to banish the double spaces?


Don’t get me started on the serial comma…

Dear That Line Starts Right Behind Me,

Garner didn’t have any words of wisdom on the subject; the AP Stylebook didn’t either.But the Chicago Manual (15th ed.) has this to say: “A single character space, not two spaces, should be left after periods at the ends of sentences[.]”While the text didn’t add anything about the rationale, I believe your assumption is correct.

I still insert a double space after periods because it’s automatic; I learned it in typing class 20 years ago and I’ll never break myself of it now.But it only takes a quick search-and-replace to get rid of them, and if a volunteer takes issue with it, perhaps he or she isn’t busy enough, and needs to be given other tasks to focus on.

Hi Sarah.

I was up until very recently seriously involved with a man who was deployed to Afghanistan about four months ago. We started dating in April, after we met at some mutual friends’ wedding. I was the maid of honor, and he pulled the “I introduced the bride and groom, now bride owes me” card and proceeded to fiercely pursue me.

I was actually living with someone else at the time, so I wasn’t really all that interested at first. It was only after weeks of flowers, emails, and a meeting over drinks (which was supposed to end with me very nicely telling him to get lost), that I finally gave in. He told me about the upcoming deployment and assuming everything went well up to that point, asked if I was “okay” with starting something with the knowledge that he would be away for at least a year. After much thought and a few more weeks of talking constantly, I decided it was worth a shot and went with it.

Fast forward to me dumping boyfriend-of-the-moment, moving out, and completely immersing myself into our relationship. For five months it was as close to perfect as I’m comfortable being. He made me happy and vice versa. I am not going to try to describe our relationship, as words don’t really cut it. We just…worked.

Cut to two weeks ago. Specifically, our 10-month anniversary. Boy is in Afghanistan. I am home when I’m not working. I do not go out. I do not speak to other boys. I behave in the manner an Army “wife” is expected to. I probably do a better job than 80 percent of said wives. And one day over AIM messenger, I am dumped.

Boy says he tried as hard as he could to love me the way he thinks he should, but he just couldn’t do it anymore.There was no fight that started it, only a bit more distance in conversations. There were none of the problems most deployed couples seem to have. It was literally out of the blue. Obviously, I was crushed.

We still speak on messenger every day since It happened. Really, not a whole lot has changed except for the lack of “I love you”s at the end of the conversations.I’m almost content to let it be, but I feel like I’ve come to a point where I need to make a decision one way or another. I don’t want to stop talking to him, but I still have the exact same routine as I did before we “split” (wake up, talk to boy. come home, talk to boy), and it’s fooling my brain into thinking everything is fine and its so obviously not.

I’ve tried to talk about it with friends and I keep getting the same speech; he doesn’t deserve you, you’re better off, you’re too young to sit around waiting anyway. But the cookie-cutter friend reassurances don’t really seem to fit the situation. I don’t feel like this is a typical break-up, but there’s a very good possibility I’m in denial.

I don’t want anyone but him. In the past after a breakup I’ve jumped right back onto the dating wagon, usually landing in a long-term relationship because of it. This time, I can’t even bring myself to look at anyone else. The thought of dating, sleeping next to/with any other man makes me almost physically sick. I’ve thought about it over and over and can’t picture myself with anyone else.

I feel as if his decision was not based on how he feels, rather, by the situation he’s in. He is at war, after all, and a long-distance relationship is probably made that much harder by the conditions over there. I know he sees other soldiers’ wives running around on them, and that would cause anyone to doubt things.Also, I know he feels guilty because I’m only 24 and most of my friends are running the scene while I sit at home (completely my choice).My friends tell me all of these reasons are just excuses I’m making for his behavior, but I feel like there are extenuating circumstances. Thus, I need your input.

So my question is this: Should I try to wait it out and see if he comes around? Try to change his mind? Or just stay here and ride it out until he comes home like I’ve been doing for four months? I feel as if I have invested insane amounts of time and emotion into our relationship, and I feel like moving on right now would just be a waste of all of it. Right now, being lonely feels like a better alternative than giving up.

I very well might be making excuses for him and being incredibly weak for not being able to just shrug it off like everyone recommends. I need an objective voice, Sars.Any advice at all would be much appreciated.

Tired of trying to get advice from the cat

Dear Cat,

It’s not weakness, and it’s not about shrugging it off; I don’t think your friends want you to act like you don’t care.But it is time to start acting like he dumped you, and that means telling him you don’t want to communicate with him for 90 days, then blocking his IMs and not responding to any calls, emails, Facebook messages, whatever.

I agree that extenuating circumstances do exist that would make it dicier to cut him off for three months than in a relationship between civilians, like if you thought cutting him off would fuck with his focus or cause him to endanger himself — but the thing is, the breakup was his idea, and if he didn’t think that would have consequences, he…should have.He doesn’t really get to keep you hanging on waiting for him to get home when he’s not interested in doing the heavy lifting.

And you know, he doesn’t really get to keep you at home twiddling your thumbs, either.You can tell yourself whatever you want about Army-wife culture, but 1) he didn’t marry you, and 2) even if he had, going straight from work to home to work to home is ridiculous.He doesn’t own you; you’re allowed to go play cards with some friends or something, and he can suck it up and trust you.

You don’t sound to me like you have any idea what you want from your life outside of whatever “boyfriend of the moment” is in play.You dumped a guy you lived with to go out with this guy, and now you don’t want to let go of this guy because of everything you’ve invested in, and given up for, him.But is this really what you want — this guy who pursues you hardcore, then changes his mind?This guy who expects you to sit at home, doing nothing, being a good 19th-century girl and darning his socks, while he’s away — and you’re not even married?What do you want to do at night?What do you want to do with your life?

You’re allowed to care, you’re allowed to be sad, you’re allowed to feel ripped off that you gave up your other boyfriend for the soldier and everything was great and then he got deployed and it ruined everything.You’re not the first woman the Army fucked sideways in this regard; you’re not even the first today.It’s a shitty situation.But it’s time for you to do two things: 1) accept that this is over, tell him that you are moving on, and do it; and 2) think about why you need so badly to play this obedient, mated role.Don’t date, don’t move in with anyone, don’t take orders from anyone but yourself.

He can “come around” or not; he’s not the only one who gets to make decisions here.You could have negged him back when he started wooing you; you could have told him to get bent when he started acting distant.I understand he’s deployed, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to break if you stick up for yourself, and if he does, well, he should have tried harder in the relationship if he didn’t want that to happen.Stop acting like what he wants is the only thing that counts.

Dear Sars:

In the past, I’ve often opted to avoid situations that might lead to arguments. I thought I was being smart. But recently I’ve been reading a little bit about being passive-aggressive and also about rationalizing things. So now, of course, I’m suspicious of all my motives.

Giving someone the silent treatment is a form of passive-aggressive behavior. I’m guessing the same is true of avoiding someone. The other day I decided to beg off from a social situation because I thought there was a higher-than-average chance that it might degenerate into a verbal argument between one of the people there and myself.

If avoiding these situations isn’t the answer — I assume that it can’t be both passive-aggressive AND the answer, but please correct me if I’m wrong — what, then, is an appropriate response?

Thank you.


Dear Cryp,

I wouldn’t call avoiding the situation “passive-aggressive.”It’s…”avoidant,” and that’s not always a bad thing either.You chose the least uncomfortable of the available options for everyone involved, and yet another term for this is “courteous.”

But there’s more than one way to avoid an argument, and the way you describe this particular situation makes it sound like it’s a weather report.You can choose not to take the argument bait; you can choose to walk away if things get heated.You can stay away from touchy subjects.You can exchange pleasantries and then excuse yourself after five minutes.You have options here — you do.Arguments don’t just move in like warm fronts.

“Passive-aggressive” isn’t the same thing as “unable to handle confrontation effectively,” and I think you’ve conflated them.Neither is exactly a positive, though, so maybe it’s time to switch your reading list to books like Difficult Conversations or The Dance of Anger and learn not to see your interactions in such a binary fun/arguing way.




  • SarahW says:

    A friend of mine had a very similar situation with a deployed guy. They met literally only a month before he deployed, spent every day of that month together, declared their love and she vowed to wait, even putting a countdown clock until he got back home (I believe he was to be gone for 6 months).

    Cut to two months into his deployment, she gets the IM.

    We speculated at the time that maybe when facing deployment, soldiers look for something to hold on to back home.

    Regardless, your advice was spot-on.

  • Lori says:

    Serial Comma & Sars: I still do that double-spacing-after-periods too – because I too learned it eons ago in typing class. And I find that depending on the font, etc. sometimes the double space does actually look better.

  • sam says:

    comma: I still do the double space thing too (and on my iphone and on blackberries, if i tap the space bar twice, it automatically inserts a period, so the rule still exists with modern technology).

    When I did some editing/publishing for a college paper a million years ago, our general rule of thumb was that for justified articles, a single space was appropriate because the computer automatically adds more space after periods (hence, the computer is doing the double space for you). If you’re not justifying, then you should continue with the manual double space.

    These days, I write corporate prospectuses for a living, and the double space is pretty mandatory. But that’s in legal world, where we seem to have our own rules for everything.

  • Amie says:

    I had no idea it was more acceptable now to single space after periods. I only did that when character count (text messages, some online forms) necessitated it. I don’t think I’ll be able to get used to this new standard. I am going back deleting my second spaces already in this comment!

  • Jess says:

    @Cat –
    SarahW is right; a lot of single soldiers facing deployment do want to find someone before they deploy. It’s a scary situation, and everyone wants to know someone’s going to still be around for them when they get back. I am an Army wife, well, kind of. He’s in the national guard, so we don’t move around, and he has a regular job, but he has been deployed, so I know how that feels.

    Yes, I know, the “good” Army wife doesn’t go out at night, doesn’t have male friends (because then they might cheat. Yes, really.), and doesn’t tell “their soldier” anything bad so they don’t worry. I guess this works for some people, but in my opinion, it’s utter crap. Having no life isn’t the answer, and anyone who would expect their s.o., especially one who isn’t their spouse, to do that in an emotionally trying situation is not right in the head.

    He wanted someone to wait for him because he was headed into the unknown. Once being there stopped being terrifying, he realized he didn’t need you anymore. It sucks, but you need to let him go. It’s not going to destroy him if you say you need time without communication (and if he tries to guilt trip you about that, he’s definitely wrong for you). If you still feel as strongly after time away, maybe try again when he gets back. IMO, he used you, not necessarily on purpose, but he needed something that he doesn’t need anymore.

  • Christi says:

    Hi, my name is Christi and I’m a double-spacer.

    Thank you. I love you, too.

    Two spaces looks better! Otherwise it’s all squunched up.

  • Ix says:

    @Cat: I’m siding with Sars, here. And not just because he just up and dumped you for no visible reason, but…well, he up and dumped you over AIM. I know that long-distance rates are crazy, but seriously – boy couldn’t even man up and do a Dear Jane letter or call you?

    Seriously, block him for at least three months and start going out of the house again. Not going out with the intention to date, but just…interacting with people again, outside of work hours. Go ahead and explain to him why you’re blocking him, beforehand (I’d go with just a quick “I need to get my head together over this, I’ll talk to you when I’m in a better emotional space. Don’t contact me until then”) but don’t let him talk you out of it; as Sars said, he is the one who dumped you, and if he thought there wouldn’t be consequences…well…obviously, boy didn’t think.

  • Jackie says:

    It took such a long time to break my high school English teacher induced serial comma, that I can’t even contemplate how hard it would be to break the double space after a period habit! That’s what I get for learning to type on an IBM Selectric in the early 80s and anyone editing my work is just going to have to live with it.[space space]See, I can’t stop.

  • t.alice says:

    A few years back, my best friend was dating an army guy. They’d been together for two years, were happy and in love, and then he started nagging her about commitment. He told her he thought he’d be deployed within the year, and wanted her to agree to get engaged. She told him no, he told her he needed to know he would have something to come back to. She told him so long as he didn’t screw up, she’d be there for him when he was back. (He screwed up and broke up with her.) It’s sad, but it’s definitely a trend I’m seeing with these guys – I hate saying they’re all like that, but the stereotype toward army guys and commitment is certainly there for a reason. The worst part is that it seems as though it’s more a mentality thing than a personal thing – the gals I know who’ve gone through this are all wonderful people, so to get, as Sars put it so rightfully, fucked sideways is so unfair to them, especially as it so often ends in a “what did/do I do?”

  • The Bloody Munchkin says:

    @ Serial Comma: There is a great little book I picked up called “The Mac is Not a typewriter” by Robin Williams that totally debunks the two spaces after a period thing, amongst alot of other formatting foibles we’re all guilty of doing. It’s a quick and easy read and its interesting on both an editing and a page layout/design level.

  • MM says:

    Sars — you’re dead on with the advice to Cat re: being an army wife. Whether it’s military deployment or more garden variety long distance relationships, if you get dumped, it’s best to cut things off, because the “we talk/IM/Facebook” as friends isn’t any different than being in a long distance relationship anyway, so it needs to stop. And I know plenty of people who learned that the hard way.

  • Linda says:

    I am a graphic designer, and I chronically find-and-replace the double spaces in copy my clients send me with singles. I find that text tends to wrap better, and read better, without the double space–the latter just looks clunky to me. And it’s much more often that I need to fit more text than would ideally go in a space than the opposite, so those extra spaces often save me a line or two when I remove them.

    I figure if ever a client complains that the sentences look too close together I could put them back in, but this never happens. Anyway, I support you in your double space-removing efforts.

  • Caitlin says:

    The double-space after a period is something I had drilled into my head in my freshman year of high school when I finally had to take a typing class. This was in 2003, so as of six years ago it was still the standard.

    The only time I’ve ever been told to use one space was in a layout class last year, using Quark. In that case the explanation was that two spaces after every sentence would create a “river” of white text running down the page. It really did look awful, so when using a program like that I would change it to one space, but otherwise I think two spaces are easier to read.

  • Lily says:

    Serial: I’m in my mid-twenties and do the double space between sentences. It’s not just the “old” people who do it. Heh. Single space to me seems sloppy and crowded, but then I do work at a law firm and my attorney (who’s only a couple years older than me) ALWAYS catches a single space and corrects it (of course, she also seems to have a thing against contractions and always changes “can’t” to “can not”, etc.). When did single space become standard? Besides, if we can hold onto other old grammar rules that do not seem to make sense anymore, why toss out the second space between sentences. As for the serial comma: try learning American grammar rules, being corrected to British rules, and then working for American lawyers with all sorts of comma issues and see if you still have a firm understanding of the serial comma and all its attendant issues.

    Cat: He cut you loose. Go out and enjoy yourself and be your own woman for a while and for God’s sake, stop talking to him EVERY NIGHT. He dumped you, therefore he does not get to (and never should have) monopolize your time. Besides, the cat likes her own alone time and wants you to stop waking her up.

  • Jules says:

    I got a whole different take on Cat’s letter than everyone else. I didn’t read that Army boy demanded she stay at home all the time. The vibe I got was that she chose to do this in order to be the “Perfect Army Wife” – assuming and romaticising a role that she chose. I mean, she participated in the woo-ing process with this guy while still living with her boyfriend, which isn’t exactly a resounding endorsement on how she views commitment. I think maybe she was taking the relationship w/ army boy waaay too seriously and he put the brakes on for that reason. She’s just not willing to give up the role of Hopelessly Devoted War Bride b/c she seems to think it is cool.

  • Linda says:

    In many online environments, your double-space won’t show up anyway. It can ONLY create problems — HTML won’t even recognize it. It will make it into a single space. So the reason not to double-space anymore isn’t just that you don’t need it; it’s that much of the time, it makes no difference. (If it DOES show up, it’s only by throwing a bunch of non-breaking spaces with their attendant extra code hooey into the equation.)

    I double-spaced for many, many years. I assumed I could not give it up, but I started working for an outfit that specifically said “single-spacing after a period only,” because they didn’t want the non-breaking space codes, and they didn’t want to be responsible for search-replacing, and I broke myself of it almost immediately with far less difficulty than I would have thought.

    Moral of the story? If you’re double-spacing something that’s going to appear online, you’re probably either wasting keystrokes or creating extra code. It really is a remnant of a time when spaces were smaller than they are now. As much as people believe it would look squished without two spaces, you’re looking at single spaces almost everywhere on the internet. So there’s that.

  • emi says:

    I’m currently in law school, and we have a lot of (odd, to me) format requirements for our papers. 28 lines per page, 70 characters, including spaces, per line — and two spaces after every period.

  • Megan says:

    I do the double-spacing thing too, and after trying VERY HARD to break myself of the habit, I have only succeeded in putting a completely random number of spaces after any given sentence. It’s a really hard habit to break.

  • Brianne says:

    Oh, how I hate the double space after periods. I was able to break myself of the bad habit and I wish everyone else would too. It looks awful, particularly in justified documents.

    And I’m all for the serial comma, so it’s not a space issue for me.

  • m says:

    @ cat: i agree with what sars et. al say, and think you need to do what is right for you. but i have a story that might put soldier boy’s actions into perspective for you.

    a friend of mine deployed a few years ago, and tried to (awkwardly) woo me before he left. i declined, but assured him that. i knew he was trying to hold on to something here. shortly after he left for full-time training, i found out that he had gotten involved with someone in his unit. after being together for about 5 months, they talked getting married when they returned, and were “committed” to each other before he went in-country before her (for reasons i still don’t get). when they caught up to each other 2 months later, she was already sleeping with someone ELSE from their unit and broke up with my friend. after he mended his broken heart (for about 2 days), he tried with me again. it was a no-go, but he said there were plenty of other people he could sleep with on the base.

    the point of the story: we are putting soldiers in harm’s way, which (rightly) scares the shit out of them. they search for something in their immediate environment that will connect them with something normal. however, when they are in their new (very stressful and dangerous) situation changes, they also need someone who understands what’s going on.

    as sandra bullock taught us in “speed,” relationships that begin under extreme circumstances rarely work. it would not surprise me that soldier has ended a REAL relationship for a WAR relationship, and will want REAL relationship back once he’s done with his tour. it doesn’t make what he’s doing right (which it doesn’t), nor does it mean you should sit around waiting for his return (which you shouldn’t). it more likely (but by no means definitely) that he is doing this because it is the only way he can think of to cope with being in-country.

    good luck to you, and i hope that whatever happens with your relationship, that soldier boy makes it home safely.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Jules: Agreed. I think she did say that he had not asked her to stay at home every night, and I probably biffed that in my response…but if she’s doing it on her own and sort of martyring herself without his even asking her, that’s no better.

    I don’t blame her for getting her head scrambled by the situation, but I don’t really blame him either — what others have said about soldiers needing emotional solid ground of this type (or not, depending on where they are in their tours) totally makes sense. It’s not really anyone’s fault that she got into this thing, but she does need to get herself out, especially now that he’s declared it over.

  • Bo says:

    Our copy style is single space after period, and it looks just fine. I do a quick search and replace for the writers who don’t remember. (We also use the serial comma. I prefer it, and I get to set style, so there you go.) I changed the style to single space after period after reading an article on the issue in [i]The Editorial Eye[/i] (sadly, no longer being published).

  • Jo says:

    The punctuation section of the 2007 AP Stylebook does say to leave one space after a period. I’m a copy editor, so I just double-checked my personal copy. It doesn’t give an explanation, but I would guess that it has to do with needing to keep the number of characters to a minimum. In any case, my high school teachers told me to use the double space and my college professors all hated it, so it was easy to break the habit. I think you’re completely justified in taking them out.

  • camelama says:

    The one-or-two-spaces question came up on Nathan Bransford’s blog (and Sars, he mentions baseball too, hee). 298 comments last I looked, quite the spaces discussion. :)

  • Kate F. says:

    Sars, have you heard Vampire Weekend’s song “Who Gives a F* About an Oxford Comma?” The first time I played it for my husband, an English major with old-fashioned taste in punctuation, he gave me a wounded look and said “*I* do!” Tell me if you haven’t heard it and I’ll send it to you. As a journalist, I had the serial comma beaten out of me early on.

  • Mary says:

    What drives me crazy is that I often get manuscripts from authors to edit that have a spectrum of spaces after the periods: sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes three, and even sometimes four. Why does this happen? I get that people are conditioned to hit spacespace after a period, but how does that turn into spacespacespace or worse? (Also, you guys? You can do it. Just concentrate. I did it, and many others have too. It’s the way of the world. One space 4-ever!)

    Wanted to mention that there is this handy dandy thing called FileCleaner that I got through work. It’s an add-in for MS Word and you get it at a website called Editorium. ( It does all the global searches you might need all at once in one step, like 2 spaces after a period to 1, getting rid of extra tabs, getting rid of extra hard returns, etc., when you are getting a manuscript ready to be typeset or even just cleaning it up before sitting down to edit it. (You can choose which things to have it do.) If you edit manuscripts all the time it’s definitely worth downloading it and buying a serial number (30 bucks). It’s kind of a powerful feeling to start with a manuscript that is full of bad formatting (like the people who still hit return a hundred times to get to the next page instead of inserting a manual page break; I’m looking at you, MOM) and just have it magically fixed all at once.

    I just read over this and I feel like I need to say this: I am in no way connected with Editorium. I just like their products!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I’ve heard that song — hee, but also, bah. The Oxford comma isn’t just pedantic fiddling; it lends clarity, which is (or should be) the purpose of all usage rules/conventions. I get why it’s a no-go in journalism, but I don’t approve.

  • Karen says:

    Is it weird that it makes me happy that you believe in the Oxford comma? Perhaps I’m over-invested in my grammar rules.

  • Mandy says:

    I am also a long-time conditioned two spacer – I’m talking LONG time. Like since third grade and my mom was the typing teacher long. But I switched to one space during law school and have never looked back.

    @Lily – the banning of contractions in legal writing was universal at my school. If you work for a young lawyer, they might still be feeling the sting of red marks in Legal Research & Writing….

  • Jennifer says:

    Why? Why oh why do we need serial commas? Aren’t they redundant?

    I used to a be a double-space after the period gal (took HS typing in 84). A graphic design friend cured me of the desire and practice cured me of the habit.

  • maggie l. says:

    @Cat: get that romanticized crap about Army wives out of your head. If you’re absorbing – and living – that kind of stereotype, for fuck’s sake, quit watching The Unit. I’m speaking as an Army wife, of course – one that doesn’t base her self-identity on the cultural definition of Army Wife. Guy was a jerk for about six different reasons, Afghanistan or not. So, what Sars et al said, reiterated, coming from the perspective of someone who’s living it – and has lived through long, scary deployments – and knows better firsthand. Cut off communication and go rebuild your life.

  • Diane says:

    The problem with justifying single-spacing after a period by complaining about justified margins is that justified margins are ugly anyway – and create nasty spacing messes, “river” of white or not. Check Mary’s post above for the perfect example of what a mess justified margins make.

    Journalistic style and grammar standards have a tendency to be loose and low enough, I have no intention of adopting them (though I’m fine with the awareness that my double-spaced periods are eliminated in online communication).

    Sars, your last comment is beautiful. Knowing the new standards are overtaking us doesn’t mean we have to approve!

    In other news – I’m interested in how little response there is to Cryptid. I found myself wondering how it is anyone finds quite so much “opportunity” for conflict in the first place.

  • Marissa says:

    Someone mentioned above that double spaces don’t even show up online, and that’s correct, though it doesn’t stop me from, say, double spacing in this very comment. There, just did it. Doesn’t do any harm, unless you’re using one of those wretched WYSIWYG HTML editors.

    I write a fair number of technical papers for my job (technical as in math/science/engineering), and I always always always double space. I’m fairly obsessive about attractive end-products, so I promise you all, double spacing doesn’t necessarily lead to ugliness. I think at this point, it’s completely a matter of personal choice, unless someone really makes you adhere to a house style.

  • F. McGee says:


    I have been there, too, except my SO (C) wasn’t in the Army, but the State Department. I was a senior in college, C went to Islamabad on hazard pay for a year, and the plan was that after I graduated, we’d be together and I’d find something portable to do with my life. Well, C grew increasingly distant, afraid to show any emotion or affection over IM, e-mail, or phone, and I got upset. We decided to meet up in London over Thanksgiving break, to, I though, put the relationship back on solid ground. No dice: C had already jumped at the chance to go to Kabul after Islamabad. C had lied to me and strung me along, and, as it turns out, met another girl in Islamabad. That was five years ago, and now they’re splitting up, because they don’t know each other as anything but foreign service officers, neither can compromise, and, of course, they never trust each other to be honest, for good reason.

    As for me, I was heartbroken for a long time, sure I’d lost the love of my life and my only source of happiness. I entered into a string of bad relationships, just wanting affirmation of my worth, which, obviously, did not work out and just made me feel worse. Finally, I decided to go to grad school (which I never would have done if I’d stayed with C) and get on with my life. After two years here, I met my current partner, and life could not be better. Seriously. Don’t try imagining yourself with someone else – down that road lies misery. Just… get on with it. Avoid the bad relationships and the garbage that goes with them. It is entirely possible to move on, but sometimes it takes a long time. C and I were together for two years before we broke up, and it took me about two years to really get over it. It can be done, and it starts with you reclaiming your life for yourself, because you don’t want to miss out on good experiences because someone treated you like crap. You know? Good luck with everything – I wish you the best.

  • LTG says:

    I think double spacing after the end of a sentence is still more the norm than single spacing. The only fields where single spacing is almost universal is newspaper publishing (where space is at a premium) and graphic design involving limited amounts of text (where the designer is likely very carefully controlling the amount of space used between all words). I would contend that when reading really large blocks of text, having the extra space promotes comprehension in subtle ways, by more clearly delineating the end of a sentence. Obviously, the punctuation already tells you where the sentence ends, but the extra space is an additional visual cue. Thus, for any extended writing, I believe double spacing is superior to single spacing.

    (And, as others have noted, there are certain fields in which double spacing is absolutely non-negotiable. I don’t know a single lawyer who intentionally single spaces, for example.)

  • ferretrick says:

    @Ix: The guy is in Afghanistan. In his defense, maybe AIM is the only convenient method of communication available. I agree, in general, that’s shitty to break up with someone on AIM, but there are extenuating circumstances here.

    That said, I agree with everyone else. He dumped you; you need to accept that. Also, the guy extorted your contact info from the maid of honor. Then, by your own admission, he proceeded to aggressivly pursue you while knowing you were in a committed relationship with someone else. There were big red flags about his character long before he left.

  • Jennifer says:

    @Cat: Also, what everyone else said, such as. Of course you don’t feel like meeting anyone–you’re still talking to him everyday, which is what your relationship was, which is why you MUST. STOP. Stop. Seriously. You don’t have to date, you don’t have to be party girl. But you must leave the house.

  • La BellaDonna says:

    Hi, my name is La BellaDonna, and I’m a double-spacer. I will continue to double-space unless and until I am in a position where I must comply with specific instructions to single-space (if I should submit a manuscript for publication, perchance). Fortunately for me, here in the Land O’ Law, we’re still happily doing two taps after that period – and the attorneys are quick to spot a missed space (at least in someone else’s work). I’m a serial comma lover, too; meet y’all down at the tar pits!

    I’m curious as to why Cryptid thinks there’s a better-than-average chance of a social situation deteriorating into an argument between Cryp and another person. I don’t want to pry (except of course that I DO – and I am) – but Cryp, you seem fairly certain, and I’m wondering what the backstory to that is. Plus, it may offer a little more clarification to your situation. Plus, I’m curious.

  • Jem says:

    Man – five years ago I could have written a letter very similar to Cat’s. Replace Afghanistan with Iraq and AIM with e-mail, and there I was. I think Sars and everyone else here has given excellent advice and I have little to add, other than to say that as breakups go, that is a unique kind of one to get over, so Cat you have my sympathies. I second or fourth or whatever the suggestions to go cold turkey from him. I know it feels like you’d be the cold one to do so, since he’s in such a dangerous place and you still feel like you want to give him some kind of life line to “home,”, but he’s made his choice. You need to put yourself first now, and it’s neither cold nor selfish to do so.

    And just because I am mighty curious I have to ask: What do lawyers have against contractions? I did not know that.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    “Guy was a jerk for about six different reasons, Afghanistan or not.”

    Damn straight. Someone who expects “his woman” to stay home sipping weak tea, in the dark, alone, so that she won’t be tempted, and then dumps her via IM (what a chickenshit) – well, that’s an asshat right there.
    If he weren’t serving his country and acted this way, we’d all be gathering our pitchforks & torches & storming his castle. (If it was even Soldier Boy who expected that “Perfect Army Wife” behavior. Sorta sounds to me, too, as if it were self-imposed!)

    I completely agree with Sars. Drop it & let it lie. DO NOT ENGAGE.

    I’d also recommend that you stay single for awhile until you know what YOU really want, and use this time of “men make me nauseous” to study them without your hormones’ influence.
    These 4 months have taught you a lot, so it isn’t a waste of time or effort in any way. You’ve discovered things that made you happy and you can seek those things with someone more stable (whatever the circumstances, the man is unstable, the sitch is unstable.) You’ve found that 4 months of not partying won’t kill a 24-year old woman. You’ve discovered that you can be faithful even when no one’s watching your every move. That’s powerful stuff!
    Best of luck to you both! (but separately!)

  • Kat says:


    Dude! That Add-in sounds amazing!

    I’ve programmed macros to take care of double spaces and double hard returns. For those who would rather not shell out $30 or would prefer a faster fix (MS Word):

    “Sub DoubleSpace()

    ‘ DoubleSpace Macro
    ‘ Macro recorded XXX

    With Selection.Find
    .Text = ” ”
    .Replacement.Text = ” ”
    .Forward = True
    .Wrap = wdFindContinue
    .Format = False
    .MatchCase = False
    .MatchWholeWord = False
    .MatchWildcards = False
    .MatchSoundsLike = False
    .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
    End Sub”

    To edit for hard returns or tabs, just edit .Text and .Replacement text. Codes are ^p for hard returns and ^t for tabs.

  • griffin says:

    Double-spacing after a period is indeed a holdover from the days of monospaced type (as from a typewriter.) If you’re using a proportionally-designed font, double-spacing is actually counterproductive, as the correct amount of space is built into the typeface already. As someone mentioned above, it will lead to the distracting “rivers” of white space in a paragraph.

    It’s applicable any time you’re using a computer using proportional fonts, not only in selected instances. Graphic designers are, generally-speaking, not micromanaging letter- or word-spacing in large chunks of text: that’s primarily the domain of the typographer. The fonts are already designed with that spacing in mind. There are plenty of sites out there analyzing type legibility and why some typographic choices are measurably better than others.

    It’s not really a matter of taste: from a typographical standpoint, double-spacing in a proportional font is an obsolete practice and technically incorrect. Of course you can do it if you want, but it’s still incorrect.

  • Lauren says:

    Cat, I agree with everything that’s been said, and for the future want to give you this one piece of advice: Start taking things at face value and treat the situation for what it IS, not for what you want it to be. You can try to justify his reasons for breaking up with you all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that he broke up with you. He told you straight up that he did not want to be in a relationship anymore, and you owe it to yourself to accept that for exactly what it is – that he ended your relationship – and move on. If it’s meant to be, or if the reasons you’re telling yourself are true, he’ll come back. If not, you’ll have saved yourself months of pining and self-doubt and missed opportunites.

  • Gris says:

    @comma, I MUCH prefer double-spacing, and the only time I don’t use it is in Twitter (when I NEED the extra space, darnit) or in webby things, since web formatting will automatically ignore the extra space anyway. It doesn’t matter as much in proportional fonts, but many profs will still require it for term papers and theses. Personally, I find it easier to read, because it separates sentences more clearly. Single-spacing just appears crowded to me. MLA simply recommends being consistent, but I found an interesting precis of the argument on
    One Space or Two Spaces after Punctuation – Rules of Desktop Publishing
    (In particular, check out the poll at the end of the article!)

  • Leigh says:

    Having spent many years as a copy editor, and now as a designer, double spacing is the FIRST thing I do a find/replace for in any document that comes across my screen. As others have pointed out, it was invented due to the typewriter; computers automatically add a small amount of extra space after punctuation. Unless you’re still banging out papers on a Smith Corona (or, apparently, are a lawyer), one space is correct.

    Double spaces look as lazy and uninformed to me as egregious misspellings.

    (Also hate: lack of serial commas. Yes, they ARE necessary! Excellent post, Sars!)

  • Jen S says:

    I double space because I was taught it in junior year typing class. I don’t even know what a justified document is. I would be a lousy editor. Commas will always have a home for me–the only time I can see eliminating a serial comma is for a specific “rushed” effect, like a character talking rapidly or some such.

    Cat, major drag, and of course he’s in a dangerous job and you don’t want him to feel abandoned or whatever, but… Operation Dear Abby’s been around for decades. He broke it off, so he gets to live without his twice a day AIM fix. Them’s the breaks, war or no war.

  • Fiona says:

    Cat, I think Sars’ advice is spot-on, especially with regard to the passivity about your own life. If in doubt, re-read your letter: “I finally gave in” or “In the past after a breakup I’ve jumped right back onto the dating wagon, usually landing in a long-term relationship because of it.”

    It’s like there’s no agency there – as if life is something that happens to you. Sure, we don’t have control over many things and being dumped over AIM is one of those things. But you can control how you choose to deal with it. You can wait for him to take the lead, or you can accept his decision, accept that yeah, it hurts, and move on with the next phase of your life. Being single has alot to offer, and if all you get out of it is the knowledge that you’re cool on your own, too, that’s a powerful thing.

  • Melissa says:

    Just a thought on the Army Wife mystique, the he-needs-someone-to-come-home-to mystique, and the whole culture that is growing up around deployment to the Middle East. I still feel it’s worth asking–why are we doing this?

    Why are we sending our young people off to war? Why are we forcing them into this kind of life? And what are these wounded, injured, traumatized, and at some level abandoned young people going to be like as they come home and try to rebuild their lives? Right now we can’t even seem to muster basic therapeutic and psychological resources our veterans need. What about when they get old? What have we done?

    Seriously. We are as a nation behaving as if there’s no other choice, and there ARE other choices.

  • KPP says:

    @Cryptid I think there’s also a difference between avoiding a potentially bad situation and just sucking it up and dealing with it. I know sometimes long term friend groups end up with people who don’t like each other and will start avoiding each other. Sometimes its good when they remove themselves from the situation so the other friends don’t have to keep notes on who to invite where and when and sometimes its like “just show up and casually avoid each other and stop being a baby.”

    Do these people verbal abuse you? Because then you need a new friend group. Or do they annoy you in a really short amount of time? Because then maybe you need to start sucking it up and/or do as Sars suggests. Sure, maybe you need a new group of people, but maybe its not them, maybe its you. I mean, I don’t know you or the people you interact with, but I have met people with a sometimes irritatingly low tolerance for others (hm, is that an ironic statement about myself?).

  • Marie says:

    Another of the lawyer community here, chiming in to say double-space and no serial comma. If either of those things hits my writing, the partner I work for will apply pen and edit it right out.

    Same goes for contractions, although that I learned in undergrad, not law school or law practice. I had it drilled into me that contractions were not appropriate for formal writing. The same would still hold if I tried to put a contraction into a contract, letter or any client communication.

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