I must admit that I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to design. After taking typography and design classes in school, I developed an eye for detecting typographic errors and inconsistencies in the world around me. These are usually the kind of oversights that normal people either don’t care about or aren’t aware of.
I’m here to tell you though, details matter! If you do any sort of writing in your professional life, you’d do well to educate yourself and pay attention to proper punctuation and typography, lest you look unprofessional. You wouldn’t dare overlook a spelling error, would you? Typographic misuses certainly aren’t as obvious, but they’re errors, nonetheless.
While it is true that content is king, what may seem like minor missteps have the potential ability to topple that king from his throne:
One space after each period, please. While this rule isn’t set in stone, popular usage (and the Chicago Manual of Style) dictate that using two spaces after each period is a convention that has been carried over from the typewriter era. If you talk to any professional writer or graphic designer, you’ll learn the same thing: a paragraph riddled with double-spaces is a paragraph riddled with ugly, unnecessary holes. Some people certainly feel more strongly about this issue than others.
Get your dashes and hyphens in order. There are three similar punctuation marks, and each serves its own specific use(s). The hyphen (-) is the shortest. It is used to connect words (“job-creating”) and indicate that a single word breaks to the next line in a paragraph. The en dash (–) is most commonly used to connect a range of numbers or words (0–100) and the em dash (—) is used to represent a break in thought mid-sentence (“I’m going to the grocery store—the one at the end of the block—for some bread”). For a more extensive look at everyday typographic rules, read this Smashing magazine article.
If you’re rolling your eyes right now, I can’t really blame you. Not everyone likes to view the world through a detail-oriented magnifying glass, but detail-orientation certainly isn’t a quality exclusive to design or the written word.
The point is this: pay attention to every aspect of what you do. Focus on the big picture and the end result, but don’t overlook the subtleties and minor details.