Submitted by ajay  •  May 29, 2008

Space After Period

How much space should be given after a period in Word documents and in PDF’s?

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One. Using two spaces is a holdover from typewriter days. Modern word processors adjust the spacing between words, and even letters, automatically -- a feature that wasn't available on typewriters.

Also, most of the fonts we use these days are variable-width, meaning that the characters take up different amounts of space on the line. (Compare the width of a lowercase I to an uppercase W in most of your fonts and you'll see what I mean). This was not possible with typewriters, where every character had to be the width of the hammers on the machine. Back then you needed two spaces just to break the monotony of the page.

Similarly, you only use one space after colons too, despite what your typing teacher may have taught you years ago. In fact, I can't think of a single instance where you use two spaces these days...

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I'm sorry, I still say two spaces should be used in all cases. Even if it's a holdover from typewriter days, those of us that learned to touch-type would be hard pressed to not do two spaces as this is how we were taught. Two spaces is as natural to us as not looking at the keys when we type.

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As a librarian of the English sort, I deal with this type of query every day. Thus, I shall answer in short: Two spaces, not one! Anybody who thinks otherwise is a bloody fool, I say!

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Chicago Manual of Style says one space:
http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/CMS_FAQ/One...

The visual appeal you might find from double spaces after periods, colons, etc., is merely a visual holdover from your youth when you were taught on the typewriter. There is no visual appeal for computer systems that are using variable width fonts and that adjust fonts for various layout appeal issues.

Unless you type in a monospaced font like Courier or use a metal press (as I still get to do sometimes). Then by golly, use double spaces.

But if you hand your copy over to a designer to design with a computer, he will gleefully do a search and replace on the double spaces before publishing your copy.

Your best bet for your Manifesto that will be found by the police after your arrest is double spacing after periods. Or if you're a screenwriter, where the norm is to type in a monotype font.

As someone who works on a computer continually, I save myself from early carpal tunnel syndrome by saving thousands of keystrokes a day.

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for me it doesn't have anything to do with proportional vs. fixed-width fonts. i use two spaces for one reason: it is more readable. it makes it easier for the eye to pick out the beginnings of sentences, and thus easier to interpret the meaning. it's much the same as the reason for extra vertical space between paragraphs (such as on this very webpage).

the reason it's not done in print media is that it uses up space. still a concern with digital media (if you want the audience to be able to see more at once) but to a lesser degree since space is not limited.

as far as removing the "extra" spaces, should you desire to do so, seriously, what could be easier. that will take any text editor almost no time at all.

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I was searching for info on this particular topic, and stumbled across this page. Personally, I was taught the period-space-space rule as an early teenager, at a time when very few people had computers. If you were lucky enough to have one, your family was rich, or it was a business computer. As computers became more mainstream and typewriters were phased out, the standard shifted to simply using period-space. I was told at the time by someone that I had no reason to doubt, a highly-educated teacher, that the period-space-space rule had been changed because it simply looked better to have a single space on anything you view either on-screen or on paper. The need for it back in the days of typewriters was always attributed to the fact that in many cases, the size of the "space" itself on a typewriter was just too small to make a document very readable without the double space.

Many years passed since I was told that the period-space-space rule was replaced with a period-space rule, and I never gave any of it much thought until it turned into a heated debate at my job recently. It seems that the advocates of the single space between sentences are on my side of the digital divide, and those that absolutely NEED to have the two spaces reside on the other side of it. And, just like this period-space-space debate, there are many different and valid definitions of the digital divide, so let me define it as I'm using it here:

Digital Divide (for this particular use) - I'm referring to the gap in technological skill between the older generation and the younger generation. Certainly there are several divides of this type across generations, but for my uses, I'm talking about a split somewhere around the age of 35 or so. Basically, anyone under 35 had some (perhaps limited) access to a computer during their childhood. Anyone older than that, well, computers just weren't around that long -- at least not personal computers available to the average user.

So, as I said, the debate on this in my office (and in various other places on the Internet) seems to center around those who typed papers for school on a typewriter, and those who did it on a word processor. But in reality, what's the difference? Seems to be just that you practice what you are taught.

As far as readability, well... I think that's mostly opinion. Go ahead and do study after study on it. It's still just an opinion. One of the comments above says that they've done study after study after study on it:

"Depends - if you want people to read faster, more easily, and with better comprehension, use two. The data on this is solid, overwhelming, and has remained consistent on studies up to and including the latest brain-imaging technology. Even people who are young enough to have very little experience with the double-space after period convention read better and are more likely to read text when it is used."

OK, that's all well and good. But I completely and totally disagree. My eye catches EVERYTHING. So if there's a misspelling, I see it. If there's a grammatical error, I see it. If there's an extra space after a period in just ONE sentence of an entire document, I see it. If there's an extra space after EVERY period, well, frankly, that just drives me nuts. It causes too many rivers. As I read, my eyes move left to right much more skillfully than their ability to stay on the same horizontal plane. So if I'm reading and there's an extra space after a period, there's a good chance that my eyes will get pulled with the extra space to the line above or below. This results in much poorer reading comprehension, and certainly adds to the time it takes me to read something. I don't believe I am a completely unique case, however, certainly I understand that there are people out there that don't ever have a problem like this.

Nonetheless, I submit to those of you that say, "ALWAYS USE TWO SPACES," -- I believe if you're going to have a blanket rule, it should err on the side of always using ONE space. If you use one space with a monospace type font, it results in a very nice, easily-readable document, despite the fact that it may not be the standard. If you use two spaces, it results in lots of holes and white space where it shouldn't be, even if it's the way it's SUPPOSED to look. On the proportional-type side of the coin, if you enter one space, it is proportinally sized as it should be. If you enter two, the proportionality goes out the window and it just looks wrong.

I tried very hard to give examples of this right here, inline with the comment, however, it seems HTML is disabled, or at least, it's disabled through the preview of the comment. For that reason I couldn't include the examples I wanted to include.

If you want to see the differences, copy the paragraph below and paste it into Notepad. Save it as "whateveryouwant.html" -- then open it in your browser. You'll see those big, glaring, extra white spaces in there, and it's not even about readability. It's about the fact that you'll pause before you even start reading -- because your eye is drawn to those big, ugly white spaces.

[copy below this line]
Depends - if you want people to read faster, more easily, and with better comprehension, use two.  The data on this is solid, overwhelming, and has remained consistent on studies up to and including the latest brain-imaging technology.  Even people who are young enough to have very little experience with the double-space after period convention read better and are more likely to read text when it is used.  The paste-up and typography issues are a red-herring.  The reason was always to make it easy to skim to the end of a sentence. &nbspMost good readers locate the end of a sentence, before reading the whole thing.  When there is no easy way to peg the end of the sentence, reader may either ignore many of the words in the sentence, or else they read every single word all the way through to find the period, then having identified the sentence, they go back and read the sentence as a chunk.[end copy]

Now, to see what that looks like in a monospace font, copy that same paragraph as it's displayed in your BROWSER (after you save it as HTML, not from Notepad) and paste into Microsoft Word. Now change the font to a monospace font -- I use Courier New but use what you like, just make sure it's monospace. Wow, look at that, holy-white-space batman! It's even worse in monospace.

So the conventional wisdom is that if you're talking about a monospace font, use two spaces, but if you're talking about a proportional font, use one. I submit to you the above example. In my opinion, neither of them look good with the extra space. But if I had to choose one to have the extra space -- it would be the PROPORTIONAL font! Crazy. Anyway, with all of this research in my mind, I'm going to stand firm and say that I will NEVER use period-space-space, and my advice to anyone that wants to would be to go through an exercise like the above.

If you want to see what kind of change it might make in a document you already have, it's fairly easy to do. Just use the Find-Replace command. If you're a period-space-spacer, just do a Find on ". " (that would be period-space-space, and don't use the quotes) and replace with ". " (period-space). Now, I don't know exactly what that will render as when I submit this, because HTML kills extra spaces, and if I hard-code a space on this blog, it renders as   without converting to what it actually should look like. But the point is, when you're using the Find-Replace command, in the find field you should type a period and two spaces (if you're a period-space-spacer) and Replace with simply period-space. Then decide for yourself which version you like better. My vote says period-space, and I've illustrated why above. But my decision has nothing to do with your personal likes or dislikes, so decide for yourself.

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It probably depends what field you are in. For US psychologists and most people in the social sciences field, APA guidelines are to use 1 space.

This was hard for me to get used to b/c I was also taught to use 2 spaces in school.

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Depends - if you want people to read faster, more easily, and with better comprehension, use two. The data on this is solid, overwhelming, and has remained consistent on studies up to and including the latest brain-imaging technology. Even people who are young enough to have very little experience with the double-space after period convention read better and are more likely to read text when it is used.

The paste-up and typography issues are a red-herring. The reason was always to make it easy to skim to the end of a sentence.

Most good readers locate the end of a sentence, before reading the whole thing. When there is no easy way to peg the end of the sentence, reader may either ignore many of the words in the sentence, or else they read every single word all the way through to find the period, then having identified the sentence, they go back and read the sentence as a chunk.

It has been described to me that the blip you get when someone hits a single-space after a period is similar to the blip you get when someone trips on a bump in the carpet.

It is curious to me that people will say one thing, and write one way, and yet their results when they are actually reading text those people are still in-line with the don't-use-impact-to-mean-effect and two-spaces and so on test results.

Someone like Trevor, who recognized that the double-space is a guide that helps one read will have brain imaging results that are the same as someone like semitek who says double-spaces are crazy making.

As far as I have been able to find out, no one is looking at the physiological or social reasons for this. (Although people spend plenty of time studying, for instance, how people might have one type of person for their romantic fantasy, and yet always seek out and date another type of person entirely.)

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OK, Lab Rat, I HAVE to ask. You mean to tell me that someone actually did a study where they did brain scans of people while they read text that had two spaces after a period vs. one space? REALLY? Who did this study? Where? When? Please provide proof.

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I dunno. Composition and the appearance of written text are so crucially important to everything in our society. Just imagine how much more stuff we can be persuaded to buy when we read advertising that doesn't waste our precious time with double spaces. I studied architectural design for a while, and I can see how much prettier buildings would all be if the doors were not down there at the ground level breaking up the line at the bottom of the building. Doors should all be in the middle of the facade for proper composition.

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In case you missed my sarcasm, I really don't buy this argument from the publishing and advertising community that function should follow form. Why must everything in our society be reduced down to eliminate what's deemed an unnecessary waste? What's wrong with giving a sentence the space to "breathe"??

I'd love to see this brain imaging research you refer to Lab Rat (I'm hoping you're not just pulling that one from your you-know-what). Please provide sources!!

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When I took a design degree, the typography teacher stated 'one space not two.' Since his reasoning is different to previous posts, here it is. When reading, the eye reads in chunks or grabs. Bigger type, wider spacing and double spacing after periods, reduce the number of words per grab, limitiing reading speed. I don't have the source of his information, but you could set the type of the page really large and add excessive kerning to see if it slows things down.

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Every book I have read uses two. By the way you are all douchebags.

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Doug,

Your post doesn’t really deserve a response. However, on the off-chance that you have, in fact, opened a book, let me point out that most use justified text – you know, all smooth at both margins. To achieve this, spaces are inserted between certain words, particularly after periods. If you examine the text closely you will see that the space after sentences varies. Sometimes it may appear to be two characters, or even more. But the standard practice is to use a single space after a period, as you did in your own post. One exception is mono-spaced fonts, such as are used in old-fashioned typewriters. Another exception might be comic books, but I’m guessing you already know that.

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Douglas has a good point. Even Dougchebag used only one space in his post.

As a matter of fact, every person here used a single space in their post. Even the librarian! And no one noticed, or complained. That should tell you something about the dodo nature of the double space.

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It's a style issue, not a rule. There's nothing to argue ABOUT. In my job, the style book says "two spaces," but my style book is specific to my industry, so there's no erason for me to argue with anyone else's one space.

And I did use two spaces between my sentences.

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What's your style book, scyllacat?

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Regarding: "...the standard practice is to use a single space after a period, as you [Doug] did in your own post..."

and: "...As a matter of fact, every person here used a single space in their post..."

You cannot draw any conclusions about the intent of any posters on this site. In HTML, extra "white space" is automatically deleted. Double spaces (or more) after periods are automatically replaced with a single space. This applies to all posts on this site. Just to demonstrate, I double spaced after all periods in this very post. As you can see, they have all been replaced with single spaces.

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@porsche: The conclusion is that, when you style your own work, on your own word processor, you can do whatever you want. You can end every sentence with "[STOP]" if you want, too! But when your work gets published elsewhere, such as on the web, or in book or magazine where typography is a main concern, the space will be removed (barring use of monotype fonts). **And no one notices.**

Case in point: At my job, the style is officially double-space. But for more than ten years I've been replacing double-spaces with single-spaces in the blink of an eye. Guess how many people have noticed? NONE. ZERO. NOBODY HAS SAID A WORD. **No one notices.**

Another useful article on the subject with visuals:
http://www.itcfonts.com/Ulc/4111/DoubleSpaces.htm

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Mister Peabody, why did you direct your last post at me? It has absolutely nothing to do with my previous post.

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One - anything else drives me insane!

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Mr. Bookman is my husband of, shall we say, too many years ... cleary, he is a hypocrit (ha ha - sorry, my spelling isn't so dandy). He says two spaces, yet above, you see that he has only entered one space after each period. What say YOU, man!

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Kawwww blimey, woman! It simply formats that way. I typed it with two spaces. Now, get thee to the kitchen, you fishwife!

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For graphic designers, one space. I think with documents either way works as long as you are consistent.

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For every writer who insists on putting in two spaces after a period, there is an editor sitting there deleting the extra spaces. One space, please!

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This topic has been discussed in much more detail in the following post:

http://www.painintheenglish.com/post.php?id=68

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On the Web (HTML pages, blog entries, Wikipedia entries, etc.) use only one. Double spaces will end up being single spaces due to the nature of HTML rendering in browsers.

In word processor documents using a variable width font: one. That's standard practice for publishing companies. Two looks awful. Indeed, it was working for a magazine company that broke the two-space habit I learned from my high school typing class.

In text files, e-mail, Usenet, documents with fixed-width fonts, or type-written pages: two is traditional and acceptable. But I now default to one out of habit.

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Pb, I agree that we read in word "chunks" or "grabs", but doesn't that actually suggest that double-spacing after periods improves readability? Most people absorb maybe two to three, perhaps up to five words per "chunk", not two or more sentences per chunk. Having sentences separated by spaces would make it easier to "grab" the words in related groups according to sentence structure. Yes, some approaches to speed-reading do emphasize grabbing larger word chunks per glance, but most people don't read like that. Regardless, how could blurring the sentence structure increase comprehension, even for a faster reader? Of course, adding unusual or unexpected space between words can negatively impact readability. By the way, I'm not advocating double-spacing, per se. Plenty of reasons, both for and against, have been offered. Write according to your preference and the rules appropriate for your venue.

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In the very old days before computers, before electric typewriters, before printing probably, one was taught to put two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. No one could really say why except that apparently they thought it "flowed" the text better. That has changed to accommodate editing purposes today, to save space and time, etc. And once you think about it, it's one less keystroke to make at sentence end and saving keystrokes if you are a writer adds up after a while!

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I was taught to type on a real type-writer and nothing was ever said about double spaces after a full stop. Any possibility this is an Anglo (or even American?) idiosyncracy and that's why this Euro never heard of it? Or are the Dutch the only people in the world not to use two spaces?

I'm curious. The topic porsche linked to mentions other uses of full stops in sentences that could confuse the reader. Can someone explain? I can only think of abbreviations and ends of sentences and it should be pretty easy to discern between the full stop at the end of a sentence - as you will just have read a complete sentence and the first word of the next sentence will start with a capital - and a full stop to indicate an abbreviation - after which the sentence will continue.

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One space.

Akin to using the tab button instead of typing 5 spaces.

Word: Find "space space" and replace with "space." Repeat until all extra spaces are gone.

Automatically adjusted space after period. Less possibility of white rivers down the page. More words per line. No excessive space after period when using full justification. Standard for publishers.

Type how you wish to type. Your editor will fix it for you so that it looks more professional.

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Two Spaces rule. I think it's important to have 2 spaces when using left justification. One space is barely noticeable with full justification. Also, the extra space gives the reader a visual breath. I am accustomed to that white space between sentences. I can even pick up on the extra space in front of a hanging indent. And the reports have to be beautiful and balanced or else the reader feels off balance and does not pay attention to the content.

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I learned on a typewriter and had no problem adjusting to a single space when I started my career as a graphic designer. I think a single space looks much nicer when you view a block of text as a whole or as a graphic element. Little white spaces dotting a body of text drives me buggy!

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I am a Graphic Artist. The answer is one. If you read any book or magazine you will see that one space is used. Live in the now man!

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Pick up any magazine and you'll never see double spaces after periods. I'm just sayin'. :-)

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monotonous kerning, such as typewriters produced, isn't an issue with computer keyed type, you shouldn't add double spaces after a full stop... especially if you're supplying copy for another communication use.

For all those clients painstakingly adding double spaces to their copy, it would be worthwhile considering the additional time (and cost) it takes the designer or typesetter to do a 'search for all' through a 300 page Annual Report just to pull them all out again....

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