Change is hard. Change of any kind can challenge our assumptions, it can result in confusion and frustration, and it can leave us feeling disoriented and sometimes even lost.
My wife and I recently moved into a new house. For the last 17 years in our old house, I would always find my keys hanging on a hook next to the garage door as I effortlessly got in my car to go to work or run errands. The same routine every time I needed to go out. Tried and tested. Like clockwork. Head towards the garage. Grab my keys. I’m outta here. Quick and easy.
Now in our new house, the keys are on a hook in the laundry room. The laundry room is next door to the garage, and the keys are within easy reach as I approach the garage to leave. And yet since moving into the new house, I have gotten into my car a number of times with no keys in hand. I get frustrated and angry with myself as I rush back into the house to get the keys so I can finally leave.
A simple change, but after having done this one simple thing one a certain way for so long, it will still take some time before I have finally adapted to this new way of leaving the house. It will be a change I can make, because it is a change I need to make.
We face change like this almost every day at work. We are told to follow new policies, or we are told to use new tools, or we are told to work with a new team. We know we must accept the change, and sometimes we don’t want to. If we got our work done just fine before, why do we need to change now?
Consider the simple change, for instance, of using only one space after a period rather than two. Anyone who went to middle school or high school before 1990 was likely taught to always include two blank spaces after a period when writing. Then with the advent of computers, the rules changed. All of a sudden, we are now being told to only include one space after a period. We were told to change. Many of us refused to change. The old way seemed to work just fine. We were stuck in our ways.
The reason for the change is simple. A typewriter is mechanical. The letters are made by steel plates, stamped with the shape of the letter. The size of every letter on a typewriter is always the exact same, including the space. With that mechanical approach, the size of a blank space was the same size as every letter, and so two spaces provided that necessary visual break to indicate a new sentence.
However computers are smarter than typewriters. Each letter is only exactly wide as it needs to be. For instance, the space needed for a “w” is wider than the space needed for an “i.” The space between letters is exactly only as wide as it needs to be. Therefore, a single blank space is plenty wide enough to provide the same visual indicator on a computer that two spaces provides on a typewriter. A double space is too big.
To all my friends who argue that two spaces after a period is proper and still acceptable, sorry…but you are wrong.
I had the good fortune of working at publishing companies throughout the 1990’s, and all my colleagues and I eagerly embraced the shift to one space after a period as typography moved into the digital age. But we were visual artists, typographers and designers. These were matters we cared about, matters we were connected to. Many people in other businesses were happy to continue as they always have, maybe because their primary concerns lied elsewhere.
And the reaction to this business of two spaces was mixed, and sometimes hostile.
“What do you mean, one space?!?!”
“That new one space rule? There’s still debate on that.”
“I have always typed two spaces. I will always type two spaces.”
Maybe we even tried include only one space, but lo and behold, it was as if our thumb just automatically hit that space bar twice. So we give up. Change is hard. We always have typed two spaces, we will always type two spaces. Two spaces it is.
But what if the issue of embracing one rather than two spaces after a period is not only about aesthetics, or how we were taught in high school? What if it is about much more?
What if using one space indicates to your colleagues that you embrace change? You may not like the change, and you may wish the change was never thrust upon you at all. And yet, you are able to ultimately recognize new expectations, and you are ready, willing and able to rise to the occasion.
What if using one space helps you to better integrate into the fabric of the workplace as a contemporary peer? Colleagues are not looking at your writing and subconsciously thinking to themselves “well…this colleague is from a different generation.”
What if using one space lets people in your organization know that you work hard to stay current with evolving work practices and expectations? You want to stay a part of the conversation. You don’t want to be walking 10 feet behind.
The ultimate goal is to effortlessly and thoughtlessly hit that space bar only once, not twice. In the meantime it might be enough to just set a goal of reviewing your writing before it is shared, and the review can be quick and easy. Tell Word to replace all double spaces with single spaces. Do that, every time. Then, in order to save that time once your writing is done, you will soon find it incorporated in your every day typing.
- Press CTRL-F
- Type two empty spaces in the “Find” field
- Type one empty space in the “Replace” field.
- Press Enter, or Return
It’s about more than one space. It’s about the colleague you want to be, and it’s about the way you want to present yourself. And really, it’s is much less difficult to make this change than you may think. The keys are right there on the door. Grab them. Head out to the garage. Jump in the car. Get on your way.
Still unsure? Maybe this additional information will help: