[Python-Dev] textwrap.py

Fredrik Lundh fredrik@pythonware.com
Fri, 7 Jun 2002 19:42:13 +0200

tim wrote:
> Despite that you never bought a shift key, you use two spaces between
> sentences.

that's only to compensate for the lack of uppercase letters.
I can change that, if you wish.

> A difference is that my quote came from a publisher spelling out
> requirements for submission

from what I can tell, the three most well-respected style guides
for American English is the Chicago Manual of Style, the MLA style,
and the APA.

the page I linked to in my first post on this topic was from the
official CMS FAQ:

    This practice [of using double spaces] is discouraged by the
    University of Chicago Press, especially for formally published
    works and the manuscripts from which they are published. 

the MLA FAQ says:

    Publications in the United States today usually have the same
    spacing after a punctuation mark as between words on the same
    line /.../ In addition, most publishers' guidelines for preparing a
    manuscript on disk ask authors to type only the spaces that are
    to appear in print.

and continues

    ... there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding
    punctuation marks unless an instructor or editor requests that you
    do otherwise.

the APA don't have a FAQ, but according to a "crib sheet" I found
on the net, the 5th edition says something similar to:

    Use one space after all punctuation.

and finally, John Rhodes (of webword fame) has collected lots of arguments
for and against:


his conclusion:

    If you can't decide for yourself based on the above information here is my
    advice: You should use one space. Period.

> > you'll find that the word "some" is more correct than "several".
> I'm not sure that distinction means something; if it does, I don't buy it.

now that you mention it, I'm not sure either.

let's see: according to my dictionary, "some" implies "more than none but
not many" while "several" implies "two or more, but not a large number".

you're right; one could probably find two style guides that supports your

> >     "... I've found tenacity and authority the overriding "arguments"
> >     for maintaining the two-space rule. Empirically and financially, the
> >     one-space rule makes sense."
> Selective quoting of random people blathering at each other doesn't
> count as "research" to me.

no, but selective quoting can be used to make a point you're too
lazy to spell out yourself: most proponents rely on the authority of
their typing teacher or their mom.

> > according to vision researchers, humans using their eyes to read
> > text don't care much about sentence breaks inside blocks of text
> This reads like a garbled paraphrase; I assume that if you had a real
> reference, you would have given it <0.9 wink>.

no, it was an attempt to summarize various sources (as I've inter-
preted them) in a way that could be understood by a bot.

as we all know, bots can simply copy bytes from an input device,
and doesn't have to learn how to carefully move their eyes in various
intricate patterns...

>    Like many theories, it sounds logical, but those of us who read old
>    books or are old enough to remember when typesetting was an art
>    practiced by people, rather than the result of an algorithm, know
>    better.  Typists were taught to hit two spaces after a period when
>    typing because typeset material once upon a time used extra space
>    there.
>    This is an interesting instance of a phenomenon that we should all
>    be aware of:  in times of much change, collective cultural amnesia
>    can occur, and a whole society can forget something that "everyone
>    knew."

the webword page mentions that it was difficult to typeset double
spaces on the first linotype machines, and when customers had to
pay extra to get double spaces, it quickly became unfashionable:

    If the operator typed two spaces in a row, you had two wedges next
    to each other, and that tended to gum up the operation. Clients who
    insisted could be accommodated by typing an en-space followed by
    a justifier-space, but printers charged extra for it and ridiculed it as
    'French Spacing, oo-la-la, you want it all fancy, huh?

iirc, the linotype was introduced in the 1890's. when did Patricia
write that review? ;-)


anyway, to end this thread, the only reasonable thing is to do
like the "fmt" command, and provide a bunch of options:

    newtext = string.wrap(text, width=, french_spacing=, split=, prefix=)

I'll leave it to Guido to pick suitable defaults.

Cheers /F