Why You Shouldn't Trust the New Study That Supports Putting Two Spaces After a Period

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iStock

Writers, style guides, and people who spend a lot of time reading generally agree that one space after a period is highly preferable to two, but there remains a small group of people who refuse to let go of this convention left over from the typewriter era. Now, two-space devotees have a scientific study on their side. As The Verge reports, a new paper from Skidmore College psychologists suggests that adding two spaces after each period makes text easier to read.

For the study, researchers gathered 60 college students and had them write out a paragraph to determine if they were one-spacers or two-spacers. Next, they asked them to read a sample text while wearing eye-tracking devices. They found that subjects who read the paragraphs styled with two spaces spent less time focusing on the punctuation at the end of each sentence (likely because the extra space made it clearer where the sentence stopped). Students who used two spaces in their own writing read faster when given the two-spaced text.

But don't expect the new findings to shake up style standards any time soon. The study authors admit that while reading text with just one space after each sentence leads to more time spent scanning for periods, the effects are minimal. People in the one-space camp read the paragraphs just as fast regardless of how the text was styled, and the difference in spacing didn't impact reading comprehension in either group. The researchers also used a monospaced font for the study, which may be good for an experiment that requires consistency, but isn't exactly representative of the fonts readers encounter in everyday life.

The question of spacing is as old as typesetting itself. The first printers had two space sizes: a regular one for separating words and a slightly larger one—the emspace—for separating sentences. When typewriters hit the scene, the emspace was replaced with two spaces, and this style of writing was standard for decades. A divide emerged with the advent of more advanced typesetting technology around the mid-1900s. It got easier for printing companies to achieve uniform spacing, and adding two spaces after periods, which many people agree looks sloppy and jarring, started to fall out of fashion. But while the typewriter has disappeared from desks, the two-space method has stuck around. This new study suggests it will likely be with us for a bit longer.

[h/t The Verge]

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40)

- Keurig K-Cafe Special Edition; $190 (save $30)

- Ninja OS301 Foodi 10-in-1 Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer; $125 (save $75)

- Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville; $120 (save $60)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75)

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $80 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10)

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $16 (save $11)

- HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

- Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31)

- TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

- Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

- Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30)

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening; $40 (save $20)

- Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity; $50 (save $10)

- Marvel's Avengers; $25 (save $33)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

- BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

- The Sims 4; $24 (save $20)

- God of Warfor PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

- Days Gonefor PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

- Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250)

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $335 (save $64)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $120 (save $79)

- Seneo Wireless Charger, 3 in 1 Wireless Charging Station; $16 (save $10)

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

- DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Headphones and speakers

Beats/Amazon

- Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones; $120 (Save $80)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones; $175 (save $75)

- JBL Boombox; $280 (save $120)

Movies and TV

HBO/Amazon

- Game of Thrones: The Complete Series; $115 (save $89)

- Jurassic World 5-Movie Set; $23 (save $37)

- Deadwood: The Complete Series; $42 (save $28)

- Back to the Future Trilogy; $15 (save $21)

Toys and Games

Amazon

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- Exploding Kittens Card Game; $10 (save $10)

- Cards Against Humanity: Hidden Gems Bundle; $14 (save $5)

- LOL Surprise OMG Remix Pop B.B. Fashion Doll; $29 (save $6)

- LEGO Ideas Ship in a Bottle 92177 Expert Building Kit; $56 (save $14)

Furniture

Casper/Amazon

- Casper Sleep Element Queen Mattress; $476 (save $119)

- ZINUS Alexis Deluxe Wood Platform Bed Frame; $135 (save $24)

- ROMOON Dresser Organizer with 5 Drawers; $59 (save $11) 

- AmazonBasics Room Darkening Blackout Window Curtains; $26 (save $5)

- Writing Desk by Caffoz; $119 (save $21)

- SPACE Seating Office Support Managers Chair; $112 (save $116)

- Rivet Globe Stick Table Lamp; $53 (save $17)

- Christopher Knight Home Merel Mid-Century Modern Club Chair; $188 (save $10)

- Walker Edison Furniture Industrial Rectangular Coffee Table; $121 (save $48)

Beauty

Haus/Amazon

- MySmile Teeth Whitening Kit with LED Light; $21 (save $12) 

- Cliganic USDA Organic Lip Balms Set of Six; $6 (save $4)

- HAUS LABORATORIES By Lady Gaga: LE RIOT LIP GLOSS; $7 (save $11)

- Native Deodorant for Men and Women Set of Three; $25 (save $11) 

- BAIMEI Rose Quartz Jade Roller & Gua Sha; $14 (save $3)

- Honest Beauty Clearing Night Serum with Pure Retinol and Salicylic Acid; $20 (save $8)

- WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Hair Conditioner Set; $30 (save $5) 

- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser; $15 (save $5)

- wet n wild Bretman Rock Shadow Palette; $9 (save $6)

- EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Face Sunscreen Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid; $25 (save $6)

Clothes

Ganni/Amazon

- Ganni Women's Crispy Jacquard Dress; $200 (save $86) 

- The Drop Women's Maya Silky Slip Skirt; $36 (save $9)

- Steve Madden Women's Editor Boot; $80 (save $30)

- adidas Women's Roguera Cross Trainer; $40 (save $25)

- Line & Dot Women's Elizabeth Sweater; $74 (save $18)

- Levi's Men's Sherpa Trucker Jacket; $57 (save $41)

- Adidas Men's Essentials 3-Stripes Tapered Training Joggers Sweatpants; $28 (save $12)

- Timex Men's Weekender XL 43mm Watch; $32 (save $20)

- Ray-Ban Unisex-Adult Hexagonal Flat Lenses Sunglasses; $108 (save $46) 

- Reebok Men's Flashfilm Train Cross Trainer; $64 (save $16)

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What Does ‘Cabin Fever’ Mean? Plus Other Fever Words

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

By Samantha Enslen, Quick and Dirty Tips

We come to you in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the symptoms of COVID-19 is a fever, and that got us thinking about the word fever and the different phrases that use it.

After a bit of noodling around, here’s what we learned.

The Origin of the Word Fever.

The word fever comes from the classical Latin febris. It’s also related to the Latin word fovēre, meaning “to heat,” and the ancient Greek τέϕρα (pronounced tephra), meaning “ash.”

Fever originally related to heat.

The first time it was printed was in an Old English herbarium—a book describing how to use herbs as medicine. The author said that people who have a “fefer” should “wyrte wel drincan on wætere”—that is, drink lots of water brewed with plants from the wort family, like spiderwort or St. John’s wort.

The Meaning of Fever Gets Extended.

By the 1300s, we see the use of the word expand. It starts to also mean a state of nervous excitement or agitation. We see phrases like “a fever of jealousy” and “a fever of the soul.” We still use that meaning today—you’ll know that if you’ve ever had “a fever for the flavor of a Pringle.” (For those of you too young to recognize that jingle, it’s from an iconic 1980s ad for those flattened, processed potato chips known as Pringles.)

Fever also paired up with various modifiers over time. These phrases referred to an intense enthusiasm that usually burned out quickly.

For example, in the 1600s, “tulip fever” broke out in the Netherlands. These bulbs began to be imported from the Ottoman Empire, and prices for them skyrocketed.

In the 1760s, when the Seven Years’ War raged between Great Britain and France, British fanatics were said to have “war-fever.”

In 1848, the discovery of gold in California sparked a “gold fever”—a mass migration of miners into California’s goldfields. By 1855, more than 300,000 people had moved into the state.

And of course, in the 1970s, many of us had the most embarrassing fever of all—disco fever. Admit it—many of you probably wore gold lame and bell-bottoms, and danced your heart out to songs like “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer.

Those were the days.

Fever Phrases: Cabin Fever, Fever Dream, Fever Pitch

Fever has also become part of some standard phrases we use.

Cabin Fever

There’s “cabin fever,” the restlessness and irritation that comes from being cooped up too long in a small space. (Perhaps needless to say, many of us are feeling that right now.) The term appeared in the American West in the early 1900s, probably because of settlers being trapped in literal cabins for weeks on end during the heavy winters that hit states like South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming.

Fever Dreams

There are also “fever dreams.” These are the bizarre, hallucinogenic dreams that can come when you have a high fever. If you’ve ever seen the dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 movie Spellbound, you get a sense of what a fever dream might be like.

“Fever dreams” can also refer to any outlandish ideas. If a friend told you she’d quit her job, bought a horse, and decided to bring transportation via carriage back into fashion, you might say she was having a fever dream.

Fever Pitch

Finally, there’s the expression “fever pitch,” which refers to a state of intense excitement. In 2019, when the Washington Nationals were competing for their first-ever World Series trophy, you could say that “baseball fever” in Washington had reached a fever pitch. Or in 2016, when LeBron James brought the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals, excitement in Cleveland was definitely at a fever pitch.

Why Do You Catch a Cold, But Run a Fever?

One final topic for today. Why do you catch a cold, but run a fever?

Catching a Cold

“To catch a cold” is an idiom. It first appeared in the 16th century, and originally meant to literally become chilled by exposure to cold weather. By the late 1600s, it took on the meaning we use today: to become infected by a cold virus.

Until recently, the phrase was shorter: “to catch cold” was more common than “to catch a cold.” And there’s also a darker version of this phrase: “to catch your death of cold.” This phrase was likely a favorite of parents warning their children to dress warmly: “put on a hat if you’re going outside, or you’ll catch your death of cold!”

Running a Fever

The phrase “to run a fever” is also an idiom. It uses the word “run” in the sense meaning “to cause, or to move.” You can see a similar usage in the phrase “run amok,” meaning to move in a frenzied, out-of-control way.

In this case, one’s temperature is moving upward; thus, one “runs” a fever.

That’s our rundown on fever-related idioms. I wish everyone good health—and I am sending warm wishes that “cabin fever” isn’t hitting you too hard.

Sources

Ammer, Christine. Catch a cold, run a fever. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

Boissoneault, Lorraine. There Never Was a Real Tulip Fever. Smithsonian Magazine, September 18, 2017.

Encyclopedia Britannica, online edition. Gold fever, Seven Years’ War (subscription required, accessed April 20, 2020).

Merriam-Webster. A Retrospect of Words From 1918 (accessed April 20, 2020).

Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Oxford University Press. Fever, cabin fever (subscription required, accessed April 20, 2020).

A version of this article was originally published on Quick and Dirty Tips as What Does ‘Cabin Fever’ Mean? Plus Other ‘Fever’ Words. Read more from Quick and Dirty Tips.

About the Author

Samantha Enslen is an award-winning writer who has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. She runs Dragonfly Editorial, an agency that provides copywriting, editing, and design for scientific, medical, technical, and corporate materials. Sam is the vice president of ACES, The Society for Editing, and is the managing editor of Tracking Changes, ACES' quarterly journal.