Death to typewriters

Part V.
Whitespace is as important as content

Marcin Wichary
Feb 9, 2015 · 2 min read

Having covered letters, numbers, and punctuation, what’s left? The absence of letters, numbers, and punctuation. The way those things are laid out, and the whitespace surrounding it.

Whitespace is important. At Medium offices, we even have a room named after it. Here’s how we’re controlling it on the platform:

Multiple spaces. We don’t allow anyone to key in more than one space. The main reason is preventing a nasty typewriter habit of putting two spaces between sentences.

Trailing and heading spaces. The moment you publish, we remove any stray spaces at the beginnings and endings of paragraphs (important for centered text to stay truly centered), as well as any empty paragraphs at the end of your story. The reason this is done only as you publish is that it’d be annoying to mess with your spaces as you’re writing, navigating around, copying and pasting things, etc.

Vertical spaces. Why build a complicated alignment user interface when a perfect tool to space things around — Enter key — is understood and used by everyone? We take over and change spacing of empty paragraphs put in common places (for example between H1 and H3) so it looks just right.

Spacing in code blocks. Just like with typography replacements, we ignore all three of the above in code blocks, which are left unformatted. (This means you can have two or more adjacent spaces in a code block.)

Headline alignment. We adjust the horizontal position of headlines so that the left edges of certain characters align.

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