Mantles, Spaces, and Commas

Guys, I need your help.  During our fondue night, we got into some heated discussions and I seemed to be on the losing end of all of them.  Maybe that's because I'm an accountant and was disagreeing with two English-y people (one has an English degree, they have both done lots of editing).  But surely, hopefully, someone out there is on my side. First:  did you know that the architectural structure surrounding a fireplace is actually spelled mantEL? I sure didn't, as shown in this post and this post and I'm sure countless others.  Of course, my friends - if I can even call them that - never felt the need to call me out on my repeat misspellings.  Instead, they sat at my dining table and giggled about this secret that only they knew.  Yes, seriously. 

So, I decided to look it up.  It seems as though they are right in that "mantle" today is usually a cloak and that "mantel" refers to the shelf over a fireplace.  But, BUT!, they both stem from the same word and the word "mantle" actually lists "shelf that projects from wall over fireplace" as one of its definitions too.  So maybe I'm not totally wrong.

I will take a quick second to mention that according to a story told Friday night, Allison was responsible for correcting a large corporation on their mantle misspelling.  On a visit to Starbucks during the holidays a couple years back, she noticed that on their holiday cup sleeves they had "mantle" instead of "mantel" as the place you should hang your stockings on.  She fired off an email to bring the mistake to their attention and the very next day, the sleeves were gone.  Pulled off the shelves, never to be used again.  So, while she couldn't fire off an email to her friend about a few blog misspellings, you've got to give her credit for single-handedly taking down a huge company.  Or at least their coffee sleeves.

Moving on. Let's talk about spaces. recently published this article that has been circling the web.  The topic?  Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.  The second line of the article makes my blood boil: "Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong."  Say what?!?  You're telling me that something I know for a fact that I learned in school - in my keyboarding class - is just flat out wrong?  No, no, no. 

According to the article, typewriters, back in the day, used "monospaced type" where every letter occupied the same amount of horizontal space.  The keys for all letters and numbers were the same size, regardless of whether they were a big fat "m" or a little skinny "i".  Because of that, there was all kinds of extra space floating around the little letters, making it harder to spot the spaces between sentences.  So the "two space" rule was adopted to make the text easier to read.  Nowadays, most fonts use "proportional typesetting" where skinny letters are given less space than fat ones.  Typographers argue that using two spaces with today's modern fonts no longer enhances readability, but instead diminishes it. 

Here's a good quote from Ilene Strizver: "I talk about 'type crimes' often, and in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment.  It's a pure sign of amateur typography."  Well, it looks like I'm about to start serving a life sentence!  Heck, I'm using double spaces as I type this post.spacespaceThe article also says that a space in text causes the reader to pause and keeps the text from flowing.  I hardly think my double spaces create "big holes" in my writing.  In fact, I can barely tell a difference between one space and two. 

Then why do I do it?  Bottom line, because that's the way I was taught.  And why would any teacher teach me the wrong thing?  I feel certain that my keyboarding teacher taught straight from the book, so it must've been printed there too.  Does that mean that textbook authors are also wrong?  Regardless of the arguments and what's right or wrong, I don't think I'll be able to change my ways.  Even if David Jury thinks "it's so bloody ugly."

Last topic: commas.  More specifically, the Oxford Comma.  Basically, this comma is the one used when listing items in a sentence.  It's the one that comes before the "and" or "or."  Example:  I enjoy reading, sewing, painting, and woodworking.  In that sentence, the Oxford Comma would be the one behind the word "painting."  Easy peasy, right? 

Well, it turns out there are arguments against using that comma.  One argument is that it's redundant in a simple list, since the "and" or "or" separates the last two items in the list. 

Sigh.  That's not what Ms. Pisahl from fourth grade English taught me.  The rule was this:  count the number of items you're listing, subtract one, and that's how many commas your sentence should have.  And so that's what I'm sticking with.  (Look, I even demonstrated in the title of this post.  Three topics minus one equals two commas.)

Is anyone else on my side of any of these arguments?  Anyone?  Double-spacers unite?