Law in Contemporary Society

Two Spaces After a Period

The Chicago Manual of Style says that one space should be used after a period between two sentences.

But Daniel Chung's LPW instructor says it's two spaces between sentences.

This disagreement implies document-making programs like Microsoft Word that collapse content, layout and typesetting into one poorly designed process.

Understanding the Difference

In English, the typesetter's convention to leave more than a single interword space between sentences is several centuries old. In French, the typesetter's convention is to leave only an interword space between sentences.

But sensible document composition doesn't require the human being to type an extra space when entering text. Sensible document preparation software does typesetting based on easy conventions for the typist, like entering email messages, where only disciplined typists trained in the 20th century will enter two spaces. Text when rendered in print should be respaced by the rendering program. But the spacing used on a printed page should be flexible within and between words, as well as between sentences, lines and paragraphs. All the spacing on a printed page should be balanced harmoniously, which good document production software, like the free software standard TeX, does. TeX is a layout and typesetting software. You give it the content and specify the logical structure with a markup language called LaTeX. It takes that and produces beautiful printed text.

TeX input has never required, or even paid any attention to, whether there is a second space after periods in the input; TeX is more than smart enough to deal with that, while it is doing the actual work of laying out the page, work no "word processor" ever does, or will do, but which printers spent hundreds of years learning and perfecting.

Microsoft Word collapses content, layout and typesetting into one process. Most of us have only ever used word processors that merge and obscure these elements of document creation, so the idea of separating content from presentation might seem foreign. But once you learn to appreciate the difference, your writing won't be encumbered by layout considerations. You can just write and let the typesetter worry about how it looks.

You shouldn't need to type the second space after your sentences because you should be using smart software that helps you, not Microsoft Word.

Converting from Word to TeX

TeX and Microsoft Word are two fundamentally different pieces of software. Conversion between the two is not impossible, but it is different.

Conversion means reducing style added by the WYSIWYG word processor, like Word, replacing it with simple notation that can then be converted back to LaTeX. HTML makes a nice intermediate format, because in order to convert to HTML the WYSIWYG program will have to turn its stupid typographical decisions back into the (somewhat more) abstracted language of HTML. So "Save As" HTML will turn the Word document into something that can be worked with.

A wonderful free software program called Pandoc, written in the language Haskell by a linguistics professor at UC Berkeley named John MacFarlane, translates all sorts of markup languages into one another. The best markup language is the least: markdown. Markdown looks like typing email. But Pandoc can turn it into wonderful LaTeX. Or make it from HTML. So the actual simplest way to convert from Word is to save as HTML, tell pandoc to make the HTML into markdown, thus removing everything but the most minimal indications of style, edit the markdown so that any style that hasn't been translated right, or that you want to add, can be added in the way simplest for the typist, and then straight to beautiful typeset pages in PDF via LaTeX, which one can in turn learn from and edit to fine tune the document. The easiest way to learn LaTeX in order to use it is to convert some of your existing documents first, via the route I've described, and then fix them, change them, rearrange them, editing the LaTeX that pandoc gave you to start from.

Free Software for Lawyers

All this stuff really works. SFLC uses only free software to do absolutely everything that lawyers do, and many things that most lawyers wouldn't have a prayer of being able to do no matter how much they spent on "tech." We are about half LaTeX and half OpenOffice users, and we communicate documents back and forth in markdown, which is also the language of our wiki. We make Supreme Court briefs, District Court litigation papers, web publications, business correspondence, and all other forms of document workflow from the simplest typing and the most powerful and tasteful rendering, whether on paper or on the Web.

You can have a law practice that interoperates with everyone about everything using only the world's best software we all make and share. Works everywhere, costs nothing, never spies on you or invades your privacy. Or you can spend the rest of your life using crap. Of course, if you pawn your license, someone else will impose technology on you, and it will probably be shit. But they'll be doing that to the rest of your life, too, so what else would you expect?

(DanielChung, EbenMoglen, SanjayMurti, ShefaliSingh, HarryKhanna 04 Jun 2012)


Webs Webs

r9 - 04 Jun 2012 - 04:45:31 - HarryKhanna
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM