Earlier today I wrote a post called Course: Perfect Punctuation I. What should have been an easy topic in the course I’m doing turned my writing life upside down and here’s why:
Some years ago, in fact I could go as far as saying a few decades ago and still be correct, I finished high school and decided to go to TAFE and do a full time Secretarial Studies course. The course went for a whole year. During that year I learned to type, I learned shorthand (which I quickly forgot as I never used it) and I learned the “new” way of setting out letters, documents and other printed material. I also learned about organisation, how to deal with people (especially bosses) and other officey type things.
But let’s get back to the issue at hand — my typing and the way to set out modern documents. The course was hot off the press and we were quickly told that we were the first students to learn the new Australian standards. It was exciting to think that everyone who had done the course before us was now “old fashioned” in their approach to their work. We were the modern, up-to-date newbies.
As I said before, this was some years ago and several thousand newer newbies have gone through the doors since then. I suddenly feel so old…and behind the times!
You see, we were the first group of people who were taught “open punctuation”, a standard that didn’t actually become the standard until close to 18 years later. I have been contently sitting at my desk knowing I’m hip and fab because I was taught the standard. Thing is, “hip” and “fab” are just as outdated as my “open punctuation” because I discovered today that whilst we were taught the standard, it wasn’t the really up-to-date standard. It was still being revised. We still had the “old way” mixed in there. We were not as modern as we should be. We still used two spaces between sentences and more commas than absolutely necessary. And I suspect (but this hasn’t been confirmed as yet) that double quotation marks is not the modern standard either.
My writing world has been turned upside down!
Oh, you can smirk and say to yourself, “For heaven’s sake, it’s just a space,” but I’m a touch typist, I type at 70 words a minute and now I have to NOT put a space in. I don’t think about it, I just automatically do it. That means I now have to slow down and think. This is not good news. This is a long-time habit that I’m going to find extremely difficult to stop or change.
For example, this entire post has two spaces between sentences because that’s what I’m used to doing. It doesn’t matter that HTML automatically deletes the second space. It’s there, just like it’s there in every post, in every letter, in every email, in every report and in every manuscript I’ve every written. How on earth am I going to train myself to break a really, really old habit?