You don’t care about indents but I’m gonna change that. No I’m not. It’s boring as hell but I like it, probably for the same reason kids make Styrofoam castles and cardboard-and-felt hills for Lord of Rings minifigures—think Warhammer, but more virginy. Those kids should be playing WarGRAMMAR.
Don’t do ‘em like this. Why? It’s ugly.
You don’t care, do you? You’re an uncultured milk salesman who probably buys books with narrow margins and has interests people like talking about at parties. I talk about margins at parties.
Listen up. Right here. It’s a new paragraph, so come on down, spin the wheel, and
Don’t belt-and-suspender it. Only squares wear both unless it’s my Stars-and-Stripes suspenders on Fourth of July or I’m drunk at a party, but I don’t go to parties because I talk about indents. I get drunk alone and talk about indents because who the hell else is gonna do it? You should try. Like how FaceRub or whatever the kids call it depresses the shit out of you because you think everyone has a better life. Sit in your room Friday night and read books about indents, and after an hour in my boots you’ll know my boots are pretty damn with it.
Because my boots don’t do this. Spacing and indent and—here’s the kicker I’ve been sitting on, because I’m pretty sure you do this—a lousy giant indent.
Here’s a nice, saucy one.
It’s an em-space. Em. Like an em-dash, which you’ve heard about. [
option] + [
shift] + [
-] makes an em-dash on a Mac. If you use a normal computer, it takes some combination of option or alt and numbers on the keypad. I couldn’t tell you but I got it muscle-memorized, because what do you think I do on weekends? I learn hotkeys and eat hot peas.
option] + [
shift] + [
m] makes an em-space. It’s wide as a capital M, which means it’s square in a good way. A blank square perfect for indents because who needs an entire
half-inch tab to realize it’s a new damn paragraph? Anne Frank’s dead. I mean Hellen Keller. I get those two mixed up. Both wrote books with shitty typography. A kid and a blind person—what do you expect? Sure, half-inch indents come standard on most word processors, but so does smallpox on gift blankets from the government. Don’t do it. Get some taste. Party people will love you.
Grab a book right now. Print and paper from your bookshelf. See em-spaces? Grab another. Em-spaces there, too. A few bookmakers do it dirty, but no one who goes to typography parties uses goddamn half-inch leviathans. Em’s the standard. Typography parties aren’t real.
Want to know about other types of spaces? Of course you don’t. I’m gonna tell you.
Nonbreaking space. Why? If you need Some Thing to stay on the same line so it makes sense.
Thin space. Why? “‘Ugly.’” Put a thin space between “ ‘nested’ ” quotation marks. If you’re British, that’s poshy ‘ “nested” ’ quotation marks.
Hair space. Why? Put ‘em around an em- or three-quarter dash, because a dash connects two unlike things, so why would you jam ‘em together with a Viagra-ed hyphen? Leave room for Jesus — it’s not the Helvetica premiere’s afterparty. You know what? A sloppy em-dash—it’s fine. It’s a pain in the ass to use hair spaces and three-quarter dashes online. This whole thing is a nightmare I should have paid some hotshot Amazon kid to do if I had rich party hobbies like fixing horseraces or inheriting things.
En-space. Why? I heard a podshow about people who buy $5,000 dolls. Sounded like the same reason en-spaces exist: loveless hobbyists.
Quarter space. Why? Who the hell knows.
Third space. Why not?
Punctuation space. Something about “dated typography.” I’m dicking around on Yahoo because the design books I read on Saturday nights haven’t gotten around to the intimates of fine-lace negative space. I read these books for the articles, by the way. I don’t even look at the pictures.
Figure space. Why? Same size as a digit. 1 3 3 7.
But you don’t care about those. Care about em-space. That’s #1. I like em-space (Eisenhower). Em-space now, more than ever (Nixon). Em-space First (Trump). It’s em-space’s turn (Hillary).
Here’s the bottom line. Almost literally. If you put space between paragraphs, like Microsoft half-inch Word always wants you to do and no one knows how to turn it off so every damn time you have to Yahoo how to fix it or hunt through dropdowns for half an hour like you’re trying to get invited to a party so you can tell everyone about indents—bottom line: if you put space between paragraphs, don’t use an indent. If you don’t put space between paragraphs, use an em-space indent.
Once called “a modern-day Jack Kerouac” by NPR after he hitchhiked 7,000 miles through the United States, Josh deLacy has since found homes in the Pacific Northwest, the Episcopal Church, and the post calvin. He is the managing director of Branded Look LLC and communications director at St. Luke’s Church. Josh’s writing has appeared in places such as The Emerson Review, Front Porch Review, and Perspectives.