Space Between Words

Aug 12, 2008
by:   Tim Stanley
Splendor of the Word by Jeff Tabaco

There seems to be a growing trend in the web community to remove spaces between words.  The fact that domain names cannot have spaces further complicates the matter.

Take a look at 20 more unfortunate domain names and you can see the kind of confusion and unanticipated consequences that occur as a result.  By the way, domains can have the dash character (-) and subdomains allow the period (.) character, sometimes for interesting stylish effects (del.ico.us now delicious and script.aculo.us).

Scripta continua is the term for writing without any word separation.

I had a client who recently wanted to follow the trend and it got me wondering what was the origin of the space character in Latin based languages.

I came across references to a book by Paul Sanger Space between Words; the Origins of Silent Reading (Palo Alto, Stanford University Press, 1997).

 

Orest Ranum much more eloquently explains a summary of Mr. Sanger's book than I can. Roger von Oech in give me some space has his own summary of the same history.

Points I've taken away on the history of the events from what I've learned.

  • Monks find text without spaces can sometimes be ambiguous
  • Folks find reading without spaces a high barrier to learning
  • Some monks remove spaces between words when copying text
  • Some monks add spaces between words when copying text
  • Reading with spaces lowers the barrier to learning
  • Reading with spaces makes silent reading easier than before
  • Reading with spaces makes reading faster than before.

The monks were the web designers of the day.  It seems in learning how to create their illuminated manuscripts that they knew a bit about visual communication and how to make their content more usable to their audience.

Grand Bible by Jeff Tabaco

I'll keep all the spaces around all my words and please don't take them away. After all, I need my space.

References

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