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Spaces After Period

I know that you are supposed to put one space after a period if you are using a word processor, and two spaces if you are using a typewriter. But this doesn’t make sense. A space on a typewriter is wider than a space on a word processor (though it depends on the font you are using.). So, why would you put two spaces on typewriters?

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The double spacing due to a typewriter had to do with the fact that a typewriter uses a "mono space font." This means each character takes up as much space as another and therefore needs the extra emphasis of two spaces after the period to differentiate the end of one sentence and the beginning of another. In word processors we have modern fonts that allow for the concept of kerning. This means a font is built to purposefully allow to Ls or an i and an l to sit closer together in a word because they can. They essentially allow words to stand alone as scannable units and therefore do not need two spaces to differentiate the difference in sentences. Actually if you use the two spaces with a non mono space font, you will create what is called "rivers of whitespace" in your paragraph and page that actually distract from readability.

A really good read on this subject is Robin Williams (not the comedian)'s "The PC is Not a Typewriter."

Jen April 19, 2011, 11:11am

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That just addresses periods, and not question marks and exclamation marks. Anyway, rationale does not pose a challenge for software. Software simply needs to differentiate between periods that are followed by a space and a lower case letter and a period that is followed by a space and an upper case letter. The possible occurrances of a period ending an acronym followed by a space and a capital mid-sentence are very few indeed. That is not sufficient rationale to change the English language.

spencerteam September 30, 2010, 8:56pm

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Two spaces are better than one because software tools have a difficult time differentiating between sentences and abbreviations. When abbreviations are followed by at most one whilst sentences by two spaces, tools will never fail.

egarrulo September 21, 2010, 10:20am

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"I think."
"I believe."
"Double space looks better."
"Single space increases readability."
Blah blah.
...opinions as if they're fact...

Check out for the only actual studies done on this topic. Because "it's the way I was taught" is an absolutely horrible reason to say it's better. That might be the reason why you find it hard to switch...but you should avoid saying it's better because you were "taught" that way.

dkspence April 7, 2010, 7:25pm

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Chicago Manual of Style says one space:

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.

misterpeabody May 13, 2009, 1:28pm

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I got a lot out of this discussion. I'm a 2-spacer and have been doing it so long that it doesn't slow me down to hit that key twice instead of once. I do it automatically even when I know the extra space will be remove, e.g., in this post.

I found a great article on the readability factor of 2 spaces at

Clearly, newspaper columns and paperback books need to conserve space and need to use 1 space. I write in 8.5x11 where it's not an issue. I too use 1" margins instead of MS's default, which probably gains me more than eliminating my extra space. I'm all about white space, but JUDICIOUS use of white space. (Admittedly it's somewhat of an art to white space wisely.)

And while I'm on the subject, why did MS Word's Normal Style go from TNR 10 (too small) to TNR 12 (too big) instead of TNR 11 (just right)??? I always customize my default to TNR 11.

Several people have provided examples of where that extra space is really needed for the meaning of the writing to be clear. I think it would be GREAT if we had a new character for the full stop so we could end this argument, which -- as shown above -- can get downright nasty. Maybe we can get a referendum going. In the meantime, please be kind to each other.

Liz March 4, 2009, 11:01pm

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Two observations:

1. This thread has lasted over six years!
2. I am a double-spacer at heart, but - people! - notice that this very blog page converts everything to single spacing. Q.E.D., baby! A new age has dawned.

Steeeeverino February 16, 2009, 5:55pm

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Yes, if you look at it, the base of the r is the same distance from the period as the I is. If I had used a letter wider than l, my point would have been even more obvious.

porsche February 6, 2009, 7:28am

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Has anyone noticed that on this very website, the absence of doublespacing is occasionally quite jarring? Depending on the exact combination of letters, it sometimes appears as if there's no space at all after the period, especially with tall and straight, or bottom-heavy letters. For example, Y's and T's look ok, but S's, I's, or H's almost seem like they're as close the the letter preceding the period as they are to the 2nd following letter, as if there's no space at all after the period. I don't know if this will work, but look at, say, Illogic... It almost seems like the I is the same distance from the r as it is from the second l, as if it's all one word separated by a period.

porsche February 6, 2009, 7:24am

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I'm sorry for all of you one-spacers. You seem to completely be ignoring the fact that the world isn't solely comprised of proportional fonts. Monospaced fonts are still used far and wide, especially in every day computer system administration and programming. Riddle me this, why is it that my HTML rendered email still honors the two spaces, but my browser doesn't? This debate is likely to rage on for quite a while, but I will continue to default to two spaces except for when I want to be artsy-fartsy. Modern typesetting systems (LaTex) can automatically deal with this issue either direction you want to force it. Editors that complain about fixing the two-spacers "mistakes" should talk to their typesetters (or themselves) about the options within their software.

Keith February 4, 2009, 3:07pm

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Two Space Bandit sez:

... two spaces after every period improves readability and differentiates between comas and periods.

Comas? I can see you are really good at proofreading! And you

... write professional documents for the government everyday...


Maj. "Bat" Guano January 9, 2009, 1:25pm

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I was instructed to leave two spaces after a period when I learned to type on a typewriter in the seventies, but my study of typography has led me to believe that the use of two spaces is a remnant from the Victorian era.

The last thing I do after editing a translation I've proofread is to remove all double spaces. Fonts are now designed for one space after the period.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online has this to say:

Dewi Sri October 14, 2008, 9:33pm

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Yes, folks, I am the one who will secretly run behind your document and "correct" it to have two spaces behind every period. Yes, I am the Two Space Bandit. Call me old-fashioned or just call me crazy, but I believe that two spaces after every period improves readability and differentiates between comas and periods. And yet, for those who insist that the two space generation is dead and buried, what I find instead are some people who use both one space and two spaces after a period since they're really not paying attention to how they are writing in terms of punctuation. In my opinion, its a personal preference, but regardless, it it important to maintain consistency throughout your entire document. That's ok, these people will be mocked and ridiculed by their peers while I ride off into the sunset after a hard day of helping others reduce eye strain and improve the format of the world's documents.

And for those who believe that two space rule is not a standard among professional documents, well think again, I write professional documents for the government everyday, as well as countless academic documents back in grad school. So yes! The two space movement lives on!!

Viva la two spaces!!

thawkins9805 August 5, 2008, 9:21am

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Now if only I could figure out how to keep M$ Word 2003 from sometimes moving the second space after the period to the next line - thus causing an intent in the next line. There seems to be no convention to its actions and it's annoying because if I remove one space to align the next line, a slight revision up in the paragraph will cause havoc below...

Oh well...Gee, I do so miss Word Perfect for DOS...

emarkay April 23, 2008, 10:11am

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I'm only adding to this conversation because I find it amusing that it's still going on. Personally, I prefer the 2 space rule for one simple reason: It's what I was taught, and it is consequently my habit. I have no problem with the use of a single space and would point out that in situations where an abbreviation may be suspected, simply rewording the sentence can prevent confusion. Writers, and in deed everyone, should always write for readability first. That said, what I find most interesting about this 3+ year old thread is that in discussing something as trivial as the number of spaces to place after an end mark an incredible number of punctuation errors have been made.

Dagan January 9, 2008, 7:29pm

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Ha ha, Comrade, I'll bet you didn't realize that this site deletes unused white space. Your double-spacing was converted to single-spacing!

Anonymous December 11, 2007, 9:03am

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I, personally, always put two spaces after a period. For me, it makes it easier to distinguish between abbreviations and ends of sentences. For instance:

You definitely did that one ass. I hadn't.

Does that mean assignment or "ass"? Of course context helps but I think that "You definitely did that one ass. I hadn't." helps to show the differences between abbreviations and sentence-ending.

Comrade Smack December 10, 2007, 12:27pm

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There has been a lot of readability research that shows two spaces between sentences hurts readability. It hurts by increasing the chances of white vertical snakes winding through the text block, and by breaking the consistent flow of words on the line (consistency is very important to readability). Readers have no problem whatsoever finding the ends of sentences when only a single space is used, so double spacing doesn't have any benefit at all. It only causes harm.

This has been known for a thousand years. No typesetters used two spaces until Victorian times, when chaaper printing presses allowed people who didn't know what they were doing to start printing stuff. Even then, all the competent printers continued to use single spaces between sentences, and that has been true for the entire history of typesetting, from Guttenberg to the present.

So, in typeset material, two spaces has *never* been common, at any time or in any font. Not now, not in the 20th century, not ever. High school typing teachers are the villains here, but you have to cut them some slack, because it's a lot easier to teach a stupid rule you don't understand than it is to understand the fundamentals of typesetting.

Rick December 9, 2007, 12:17am

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Your style guide will be very much out of touch with the times. The next revision will probably include the one-space-after the full-stop rule. MLA, APA, AP -- all the major style guides have switched to one space. Universities and colleges around the country are also revising their policies.

Contrary to your belief, it has nothing to do with laziness, but with the fact that the two-space rule was developed in the age of typerwriters, which use monospaced fonts -- as many people have already pointed out. You cannot buy a book, newspaper or magazine anymore that follows the antiquated two-space rule.

Sorry! If you value space, consider saving one space after every sentence. It adds up! Welcome to the 21st century.

Kate September 21, 2007, 5:37pm

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Two spaces enhances readability. More importantly, it also enhances my psychic well-being, which is something I would think the APA should appreciate.

Also, for the metric lover in th forum. Metric has some strengths, but do not fall prey to the idea that it is more scientific. The Metric system was developed by the French (which should be enough of an objection in itself) in the 1700's. The meter was based off of the distance from the equator to a pole, which measurement they got wrong by the way. Why was it based off of this length? Because God designed a perfect Earth and surely these distances were God ordained, reflecting His precision in designing our planet. So, in other words, it was completely artificial and arbitrary, chosen by a religious nut. But it does make things easier for mathemeticians. The English system, in contrast, was developed through practical usage over thousands of years by millions of human beings going about their daily lives using measurements that were useful to them. That is the strength of the English system. It was made by humans for humans through centuries of trial and error. What is a pint? It's how much beer you want to hold in glass at one time. How much is a gallon? It's how much water or milk you want to carry home at one time. How much is a liter? I don't know, because any drink sold in that measurement is always 1.3 or 1.5 meters, because a liter wasn't developed for the common man. It was developed for religiously idealistic Franch scientists. It is just too bad that it is left to Americans to defend a great tradition of the English.

Patrick the Rogue September 6, 2007, 7:09pm

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For all of you haters of the double-space after a full-stop, I hate to tell you that I am writing a style guide for my organization that will include it as a rule. We create very formal documents. To ensure the documents are as intelligible as possible, we will use two spaces. I do not care what font you use. Laziness is acceptable in today's culture many places, but I will not allow it in the documents I edit. We also use 1-inch margins instead of the MS Word default of 1.25 inches because we need to fit as much information into as little space as possible while not neglecting our need to be as succinct as possible. White space in the margin is for editors, not the reader.

As for the one who stated that it was just "dum" to use two spaces, I think you meant to type "dumb".

Scott August 7, 2007, 1:28pm

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My sister double-spaces after periods. I think it's weird.

AO May 27, 2007, 9:46pm

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Sweet, I'm gonna keep this comment thread alive with my little rant. The problem obviously stems from the period being used for abbreviations as well as a full stop. (yeah, ok, I'm American, but "period" has too many meanings already!) The only logical reason for two spaces after a period is for legibility. Thus, the full stop character should be a different character, rendered with spacing after it in the font itself. The abbreviation indicator ("suspension mark", as I learned from Wikipedia) and mathematical period and dot characters (and any others) should remain a ".". (or is that ".."? Stupid American quotation mark rules.) We should implement this when we convert to metric like the rest of the world. (Yeah, I know, we in general are too stupid to learn ourselves metric.) And off-topically, myth or not, I was taught and believe in the statistics that indicate that most dyslexia is caused by our horrible educational system that forces children to read at too early an age. I have sympathy for all who have been damaged by our educational system, and that is why I propose to go metric and change the full stop into its own character. The Asians may not be able to drive, but they have little hollow circles for full stops. Hey, I'm not saying it'll be easy. And I'm also not saying that I won't balk at replacing our sentence-ender with a different character. But I'm for metric. And against induced dyslexia and/or poor reading skills. That's how I roll.

sushi May 26, 2007, 7:12am

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Here's something else to consider when comparing spacing rules for general typing vs typesetting for books, newspapers, etc. When typing is done on an 8-1/2 x11 inch sheet of paper, using a double space may make sense. Most books are much narrower and the columns in most newspapers are barely a few inches wide. Using a double space in such a narrow column eats up a big chunk of the line and might look awkward.

porsche November 16, 2006, 11:36am

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We do use two spaces in legal writing, ie letters, pleadings, releases. I see that it is still a pretty standard way across the board with law firms. In fact, I know many attys who will hand work back to you if there is only one space after a period. My advice would be to stick to the two space rule if you want to stay on the bosses good side.

pat November 16, 2006, 8:54am

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<blockquote><i>Second, the QWERTY keyboard is MUCH more proficient at typing than an ABCDEF would be. ... I don't think I have heard of people who can type at 110 wpm (my brothers typing speed) or at 80 wpm (my typing speed) on an ABCDEF keyboard.</i></blockquote>

QWERTY was designed to slow typists (<i>"Frequently used pairs of letters were separated in an attempt to stop the typebars from intertwining and becoming stuck, thus forcing the typist to manually unstick the typebars and also frequently blotting the document." [wikipedia]</i>)

You use a lot of "e" and "r" and "t" in every day words -- so why are those letters in the top row, and not the home row of keys?

I've been a QWERTY user for 20 years, and my speed is about 80 wpm on a bad morning and a bit over 100 on a good afternoon when I'm full of coffee. I set up a secondary computer for training myself on the Dvorak keyboard, and in less than a year I've already passed 60 wpm. (Though I still have a hard time with numerals.)

Back to the OT: I personally dislike double spacing, but I know people young and old who like double spacing. My motto has become to do whatever each job requires. I my personal writing I single space. When I'm typing a job that requires double spacing, I double space. If I had a job that required me to capitalize President regardless of its context, I would -- follow the rules as they apply to each situation.

jeffrey May 30, 2006, 7:37pm

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Darn HTML. Amended below:

That said, let me offer a case where I might deviate from the norm of using a single space. Periods within a sentences can be hard to read, e.g. "I live in the U.S._Marshall Islands is full of angry ants!" In this case, "I live in the U.S.__Marshall Islands is full of ants!" is clearer.

ernestkoe May 26, 2006, 5:06pm

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I have also been taught all my life to use two spaces after a period (full-stop). But like many things taught in high-school, the two-space doctrine was prescriptive knowledge imparted authoratively. It was full of the "what" but devoid of the "why" like much of everything else I learnt in high school.

I dislike dogma but a reaction that is itself dogmatic is no remedy. The rule isn't important. The reasoning behind the rule is what matters. It seems fair to say that there was a reasonable purpose for two-spaces in the past. It boils down to legibility. Without two-spaces after a period, typewritten, monospace sentences looked uncomfortably squished together. Porportional fonts and modern word-processors have addressed this problem, though not necessarily other use-cases of periods within a sentence.

That said, let me offer a case where I might deviate from the norm of using a single space. Periods within a sentences can be hard to read, e.g. "I live in the U.S. Marshall Islands is full of angry ants!" In this case, "I live in the U.S. Marshall Islands is full of ants!" is clearer.

So, as to whether it is wrong to use two spaces after a period ending sentence, i would say that isn't wrong. It is simply not particularly useful as a general practice. My own objections to the two-space-or-die rule has less to do with whether or not there is a One True Way. It is that we cling to these practices because the Practice itself has become the Thing. Arguing that it is right because we have been taught that way panders to uncritical thinking. Let's return to reason before practice.


ernestkoe May 26, 2006, 5:04pm

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I'm all for two spaces between sentences. I think it greatly increases readability and comprehension. Information and communication is based on the sentence, and I think it's important to set them off a little to aid reading and to help people in quickly picking up the meaning of a text sentence by sentence.

If periods were used solely for ending sentences, I would be a little more easily persuaded by 1-space advocates, but they're also used for abbreviations, decimals, elipses, etc. When using a 1-space system, abbreviations ending in periods can temporarily confuse people and totally confuse grammar parsers in word processors.

In this post I've used two spaces between sentences, but you'll only see one because of the way most browsers work. They don't ignore double spaces because single-spacing is the "new" or "correct" way. It's because they are set up to ignore extra white space completely as an aid to those writing or editing the code, just as in many programming languages. The browsers aren't "fixing" your work, they just don't know any better.

As for double-spacing between sentences being the new established way of doing it that they are teaching to students, it might be in some places, but certainly not universally. I'm still fairly young (early 20's) and two spaces was the way I was taught, and just the general consensus I picked up in my schooling in several different schooling situations on different continents. I know young elementary age kids from varying locations and backgrounds who tell me about when to use a "finger space" and when to use a "thumb space", or some such thing, depending on the teacher's mnemonic for it.

There may be some cases in publishing where single spacing might be "better" or easier for some reason, and if you're employer or supervisor tells you to do it a certain way, do it that way!

Yes, I suppose if you get used to it, single spacing might save some time, but not much. For example in THIS sentence, there are 54 characters. That was a relatively short sentence, and with the space after it, it's 55. Add another space and it's 56. That's only a 1.8% increase. I guess I'm not in that much of a hurry! I think it was Hemmingway who said, "Easy writing is damn hard writing." If it helps your readers, it's worth it.

Remember too that you can always easily "find and replace" all double spaces with single, but it results in a LOSS OF INFORMATION because there's no easy foolproof way to go the other way. Even if you didn't have abbreviations and other uses of periods and other punctuation to worry about (rather unlikely), you'd have to find and replace [using underscore as space to show you]:
._ with .__
!_ with !__
?_ with ?__
."_ with ."__
!"_ with !"__
?"_ with ?"__
.)_ with .)__
!)_ with !)__
?)_ with ?)__
.")_ with .")__
!")_ with !")__
?")_ with ?")__
et cetera!

As for current prevalence of the two systems, I just skimmed through the last year of email I've gotten (~600 emails). I found one friend and two relatives who are 1-spacers. All the rest are 2-spacers. Of the companies that write me, it was more evenly split up and/or inconsistent.

Finally, not related, but in relation to what some people were saying about keyboard layouts:, QWERTY was not developed to keep people from typing too fast, but rather to allow them to type fast inspite of the mechanical limitations of early typewriters. The goal was to keep the most used letters away from each other and especially away from the letters they usually show up next to in common words so that consecutive letters didn't jam with each other. Mechanical limitations also made the keys staggered from each other rather than in straight rows and columns. QWERTY is a fossil and we do need a new system, but we need to realize that it will take at least a generation to switch, so we need to do EXTENSIVE research first to come up with a truely good system that we can all agree on and that will be practical for decades to come.

Kurt March 14, 2006, 12:01am

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Damon, the alternative to the QWERTY keyboard that is faster isn't an ABCDEF keyboard (which would indeed be very slow for a trained typist), but rather a Dvorak keyboard. Numerous studies have shown that a Dvorak keyboard (in the hands of a trained Dvorak typist) is more efficient than a QWERTY (in the hands of a trained QWERTY typist).

Avrom March 7, 2006, 5:12pm

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Just to point out some basic lack of knowledge, One, HTML renderers (ie, browsers) actually reduce all double spacing to one space unless you force the spaces by putting in a specific character code (which, by the way is obviously not handled in the post comment script)

Second, the QWERTY keyboard is MUCH more proficient at typing than an ABCDEF would be. If you actually know how to type properly instead of like a goober and one finger at a time, you will know that the characters that you use most often are where your fingers are able to sit naturally. Also, it is unlikely that a single finger will have to do two or more character strokes in a row. On an ABCDEF keyboard, a word like all would all be dealt with by the LITTLE (and very un-coordinated) finger. The old, "it is to slow people down" is very common but very wrong. I don't think I have heard of people who can type at 110 wpm (my brothers typing speed) or at 80 wpm (my typing speed) on an ABCDEF keyboard. And I know from experience that you can type at similar speeds on a typewriter without it smashing and falling to pieces.

Back to the main discussion of the thread. I think it is moot whether to use them or not, and entirely academic. For slower and more concise reading? I can read books perfectly at a good speed and accurately without double spaces and I find double space somewhat glaring to the eye. I personally use single spacing because it is faster and more time, space and tree efficient. The point made earlier, single spacing in a book can change the length by a matter of pages is very true. If you think how many sentences there are on a page, then you take some of the fantasy novels that are big enough already, you will probably be adding another 5-10 pages no sweat.

Bling is common slang and so is allowed to be in the dictionary. Many modern day swear words are also slang and make it in.

1 space will probably be considered the complete norm, just like thou shalt has become quaint, cute and very archaic. (on a side point, the bible should be updated into modern english, all the thou shalts and come hithers were fine when it was first translated but is now not the language it should be in. Because you are forced to translate it as English wasn't around in those days, when you bring out new editions and you notice that the the old versions are radically different to the modern day language, you should update it and re-translate it into modern day english.)

Two myths debunked

DamonTarlaei March 7, 2006, 12:59am

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Gee, Graeme, you were a little vague. Are you saying that your boss proofreads your documents, instructs you to insert a second space, you tell him you will, then you purposely don't do it? If he notices the missing space the first time, what makes you so sure that he isn't aware of your insubordination? Clearly there are differing points of view on this, and clearly your place of employment has its own desired style. If you worked for me, I'd fire your ass.

porsche March 6, 2006, 1:27pm

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Absolutely hilarious debate!! I think we have a collision of the old and the new. All those old farts of the world who were taught how to type at a "secretarial college" and were happy in the world of the "typing pool" and "jumpers for goalposts" will say that two is what you need to use. But these are the same people that don't like to talk about the war and still have a problem with Japanese products. The past is two, the future is one. I am with the future and it's one for me everytime. Oh and I have worked in PR and marketing for 20 years, so should be a bit of a Tufton Bufton myself!! I still work for a Chief Executive that goes through every document I produce and inserts another space after every full stop. Except, he is such a dick, that he has never realised that I have never put an extra space in. At what point do I tell him he is wasting his time?? LMAO

As long as we keep putting old farts in charge of businesses, this kind of crap will continue, but isn't it fun?? LOL

grdagg March 6, 2006, 4:50am

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Here's a discussion about the use of single/double spaces on Blogdorf:

Rosendorf December 15, 2005, 4:21pm

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Some people find double space after a period/full stop makes a document cleared to read. The old fashioned history is that double spacing slowed down typists, so they didn't break the keyboard. That's the same reason we have the qwerty key layout instead of something that was practical.

alpha&omega November 23, 2005, 8:54pm

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I thought you'd all find this interesting. I saw a little dig against Microsoft below, but the truth is that when using Microsoft Word, you can set the grammar checker to use either one or two spaces after the period. The default is one, but you can change it to two.
I'm not sure I agree with what some of you said about variable pitch fonts used in computer word processors. Your logic is flawed. Usually, when a word processor changes the spacing between words, it makes the single space smaller than a letter, not larger. This would make double-spacing after a period more important, not less.
Personally, I double-space after periods most of the time, except in some informal e-mails and quick typed notes where it is simply a matter of saving time or space.

porsche November 10, 2005, 6:36pm

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You know some of you guys who are complaining about the double space, after periods dont even do it yourselves. My opinion it's stupid.

flip November 8, 2005, 1:56pm

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I think it might be because typewriters have a smaller space then on a computer. I don't know this for a fact I just herd this from my humanities teacher.

DJjothic October 2, 2005, 2:52pm

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You know how no one likes to feel stupid? That's why people who usually type two spaces after the period like to argue that it makes things more readable and blah blah blah... They're just embarassed that they've been doing something so stupid for so long that they're willing to argue a rediculous point of readability. T y p i n g l i k e t h i s d o e s n ' t p r o v e a p o i n t .

Chris September 30, 2005, 11:23pm

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As an adult educator, I've found that the double space helps my students read better. In fact, white space is an important aid to reading. The average reading level in the US is fairly low and folks need all the help they can get.

When designing materials for my students or the general public, I always use a double space after the period, wide margins, and an extra line space between paragraphs.

Susan September 28, 2005, 2:52pm

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Well, I have an anal retentive boss who continually wants to thwart my tendencies to use one space after a period. I was brought up on the 2 spaces rule but while in grad school and having to write documents using the update MLA standards (located int he 4th edition of the APA manual) I got hooked to the newly revised 1 space rule. I guess I wish the older generation would possibly do some research of all the publication manuals out there and see what is NOW the custom instead of just assuming that things have not changed in the last 25 years. Welcome to the 1 space revolution!!!

Elizabeth July 5, 2005, 2:43pm

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No professional designer or typesetter would ever use two spaces after a period, except in email.

Here's a better explanation than I could give:

Ray May 13, 2005, 2:30pm

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It is fascinating, isn't it? Or perhaps you speak sarcastically, but I think it is. As a software engineer (who speaks English?!?) and Emacs user, I personally have a strong belief in the double space. Emacs is a text editor with some impressive sentence-based editing features, but it needs double spaces to differentiate between sentence endings and midsentence abbreviations. Anyway, in general I find myself using monospace fonts frequently, and I think it makes sense to use a double space in those conditions.

joachim December 27, 2004, 2:36pm

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pat December 22, 2004, 10:46am

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Damn, what a long thread.... I always used to do 2 spaces, as I was taught in high school on a DOS-based computer with a fixed-width font. I stopped using 2 spaces when I started doing stuff in HTML and found that it's incorrect to use 2 spaces when the font is proportional, so I stopped pretty quickly.

I usually make it a point to use correct grammar as far as punctuation goes, but not much else. Anyhow, split infinitives are apparently correct when they're more understandable. Another awesome rule of our awesome language, American. :) Don't fight the evolution. If "bling" makes it into the dictionary, 2 spaces can become 1.

Sushi at October 30, 2004, 7:09am

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We were taught at school that two spaces after a full stop (or period) allowed the reader to take a greater breath at the end of a sentence, rather than one space after a comma for example. Two spaces help to make it easier to differentiate between commas and full stops and using this method made for slower and more concise reading in my opinion (and clearly the opinion of my teachers).

Pitstop October 19, 2004, 10:55am

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Speaking practically...

If you are a secretary, using two spaces between sentences in all business correspondence and other documentation is still considered correct. Frequently, hiring officials and potential bosses think that these small things are a sign of professionalism.

It's true that the use of the double space is going out of fashion. But it's also true that older people in a corporate setting (disproportionately the executives and managers) still expect to see the double space and miss it if it isn't there.

Speaking from experience...

speedwell2 August 23, 2004, 12:42am

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I've looked into this as many seem to have and have found that you are only supposed to use one space. I was taught two spaces though they never taught us why. I checked with some younger kids I know and it seems that at some point they started to teach them to use one in school. My question is when did they change. My younger cousin born in 87 was still taught 2 (though technically i guess he should have been taught 1). However a kid i talked to who is currently in middle school was taught 1 and never understood why her father got upset when she didn't use two spaces. I'm just hoping I can rid myself of the two space habit since it is no longer "right." Heck i used two spaces throughout this post. This is going to be difficult.

Jonathan August 22, 2004, 6:37pm

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Funny thing: I recently discussed this with someone else.

Everyone who took typing class on real typewriters has been taught to use two spaces after a sentence-ending period. As I understand it, this is an artifact unique to typewriters: because the technology results in monospaced text (as others have pointed out), single spaces don't give a strong visual cue; also, because typewriters were typically used in business writing, where abbreviations (terminated with periods) are more common, the convention was adopted to help people distinguish between sentence-ending periods and abbreviation-ending periods.

I learned, however, that one reason typesetters avoid double-spacing after periods is also rooted in the technology of the Linotype machine. Linos use wedges for spaces, and rectangular slugs for type. After a line has been set, a handle is pulled to force the wedges up and justify the line. Two adjacent wedges would jam up the works, so if a customer insisted on two spaces, blank rectangular slugs would need to be inserted, making more work for the Lino operator.

It's worth noting that HTML renderers (eg, your browser) always collapse multiple spaces into one unless you hard-code non-breaking spaces in.

adamrice December 2, 2003, 11:58am

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I argue with those who believe that nobody types two spaces anymore, for I still do! So I side with Shawn well over Jessica.

However, as it has been stated: proportional spacing hadn't come along, so to distinguish a space to the eye, for instance following the exaggerated example in which the ratio exemplifies the typewritten style with only one-space equivalent following it.

L o o k . T e l l i f y o u c a n s e e t h e
r e a s o n i n g y o u r s e l f . W i t h o u t
t h e e x t r a s p a c i ng , t h i s

proves the need of the double space. I think it can still, help though! Of course, it's a matter of opinion, and sources like MLA.

PS. Andrew: dum--> dumb!

Sarah M. November 26, 2003, 1:14am

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Pet scan and much other data says people read faster, more willingly, and with better understanding when you double space.

Sudy Nym is correct. Full justification and not indenting paragraphs looks lovely and make the graphic designers happy. This type of gloss does nothing for readers and those who hope to reach them.

I have worked for a variety of magazines and newspapers. Style is usually at the whim of publishers and upper-level editors.

As a rule, the MLA style is based on being entirely unlike other style books. This is a bad foundation.

Anonymous November 25, 2003, 1:56pm

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I see there are a couple of different opinions on this. Since my typing class in Jr High, I have always used the 2 space after the end of sentences. I think it's a general rule, from where I stand.

Shawn November 20, 2003, 1:23am

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Before the days of typewriters, the convention generally adopted in print was extra space after sentence-ending punctuation. Because the full stop (period to people in the US) has several functions, this helped eliminate ambiguity and therefore improved overall legibility. In a sentence where a full stop could semantically be either the end of a sentence OR serving one of its other purposes, having a visual distinction made the actual usage clearer.

Printers had an assortment of spaces of varying widths, so the convention was not to double the space after sentence-ending punctuation. The simple reason for this was economics: over the course of an entire book, the difference between double the space or one-and-a-half times the space could amount to several extra pages. So enough extra space to be visually distinct but no more than that. The situation is a little more complicated than that because in fine typography inter-word spacing is not constant from line to line.

When typewriters came along, there was only a single-width space. So the convention was adopted that two spaces would follow sentence-ending punctuation. It's not ideal but at least maintains the visual distinction. However, as typing pools becams dumbed down, all sorts of typographic niceties were abandoned.

As for word processors, the pile of poo that comes out of Redmond does whatever it feels like (which is often wrong) whether you type in one, two or a gazillion spaces after sentence-ending punctuation. Back in 1978, Stanford University professor Donald E. Knuth wrote some FREE software that, even back then, handled typographic details like this far better than any version of Word to date.

bdf October 5, 2003, 6:17pm

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university standard is 1 space, no one does the 2 space stuff anymore...

jess September 19, 2003, 1:05am

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A single space after the period is commonly used in most newspapers, magazines, and similar media. Two spaces is more common in books, papers, and other documents that are considered more formal. However, it is becomming increasingly acceptable to only have one space following the period in even more formal writing.

ares58 August 19, 2003, 6:52am

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That's your opinion. In my case, it's a practice that I have followed since the sixth grade, and I maintain that it enhances legibility. In fact, I liken it to paragraphic indentation.

Though there will always be those who say otherwise- and that's fine. But I don't know *what* about double-spacing would be considered "amateurish." If you ask me, spelling your name entirely in lowercase is a far greater sin.

Writing has become not all that different than art- there will always be rules that must be followed, but many are just loose guidelines for the casual or creative writer. For example, split infinitives are now rarely considered to exactly be "errors". (I'm sorry, perhaps my phrasing was a tad kitschy.... ;P) If you were a journalist, that would be a different story. But if not, write as you wish. If your intentions remain clear and understandable, interesting usage will only enhance your style.

Sudy Nym July 11, 2003, 11:24pm

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The end of it is, because everything published is done with word processors, using two spaces after a period just looks dum and amateur.

andrew July 10, 2003, 2:16pm

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I think it doesn't matter these days : )

Idle June 18, 2003, 3:34am

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Typewriters traditionally have monospaced type which means every letter whether a /i/ or a /w/ capital or not occupies the same horizontal space. A double space after a full stop (period) assists reading legibility.

Computers in these days of the GUI have proportional spacing so the width occupied by each character, including punctuation, varies accordingly. Legibility built in!
Traditional typesetters used bits of lead at varying widths (designated in ems and ens for obvious reasons) to achieve these asthetic subtleties.

iatrada June 15, 2003, 1:37am

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Publications in the United States today usually have the same spacing after a punctuation mark as between words on the same line. Since word processors make available the same fonts used by typesetters for printed works, many writers, influenced by the look of typeset publications, now leave only one space after a concluding punctuation mark. In addition, most publishers' guidelines for preparing a manuscript on disk ask authors to type only the spaces that are to appear in print.

Because it is increasingly common for papers and manuscripts to be prepared with a single space after all punctuation marks, this spacing is shown in the examples in the MLA Handbook and the MLA Style Manual. As a practical matter, however, there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor or editor requests that you do otherwise.

GRAHAM June 13, 2003, 12:42pm

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Yes     No