You might think there’s no other way to separate words than with a space.

But hundreds of years ago, languages just joined words together in one long continuous sequence without any spaces.

That style of writing is known as scriptio continua, using no spaces, punctuation, letter case, or any marks at all between the words or sentences. In some rare cases, scribes would use the interpunct, a dot 路 for separating words in ancient Latin, but it’s use was by far in the minority.

This made reading difficult and more subjective, as the same phrase could be interpreted in multiple ways depending where pauses were inserted by the reader.

When this manner of writing reached the shores of Ireland in the 5th century, the Irish monks had a hard time understanding the complex written Latin.

Their lightbulb moment was adding spaces between words to aid reading.

Paleographers, those who study the history of writing systems, agree scriptio continua’s decline began with the addition of spaces to Irish Bibles in the 7th century.

From then, an increasing number of European texts adopted the new form. By the 13th century, all scribes of Europe were using spaces between words.

The invention of Irish Catholic Monks is actually credited with advancing the ability to spread knowledge in general.

Including spaces saves the reader time from doing it themselves and improves overall reading comprehension and retention.

馃檹 Thank God for Irish Catholic monks inventing spaces between words!

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1 COMMENT

  1. I could be wrong but I believe Charlemagne popularized spaces between words (as well as punctuation!). He may have easily taken inspiration from the monks but I think the award to inventing spaces goes to Carolinian Minuscule. If I am wrong can you please give a source for further research? Thanks!

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