AEIdeas

The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute

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Discussion: (56 comments)

  1. I’m old school as well. I was taught to put two spaces after ever period, but in the ‘information’ age, space comes at a premium.
    The thing that stops me from going further in a sentence is not the application of the ‘two space rule,’ but instead improper punctuation – “…. and now that i know about it,….”

  2. Robert Bauer

    I was also taught the two-space rule, and frankly, it really depends on the font you’re using as to which “looks” better.

    You might also note that the default settings on EVERY word processor I’ve used are perfectly happy with two spaces. They do sometimes throw fits if you leave three.

    Sorry Ilene, I choose to continue using two spaces, as long as it looks OK with the font, the same as I will always include a comma between my last name and the “Jr.” suffix, another point over which there is some disagreement.

  3. Stick by your guns!!! Crowded text does no one any favors.
    And while we’re at it, I’m going to put in a plug for inserting a comma after the penultimate member of a sequence, just before ‘and.’ Otherwise, one can’t distinguish between compound members of a sequence and the singular members of that same sequence. To omit this comma is lazy, and I believe, indefensible.

    1. I’m with you, insert a comma just before the ‘and.’

    2. Amen, and three hearty cheers for the Oxford comma!!!

  4. I do medical transcription for a day job and do creative writing and journaling mostly for fun, sometimes $$$.

    I learned to type on a typewriter with two spaces after a colon or period. In the early days of word processing, however, if one typed two spaces after punctuation at the end of a line, it could make your spacing look extremely funky. I adopted the “typsetting” (or publishing standard) of one space after all punctuation as my normal mode of typing, and this is the way I mostly still type…

    … EXCEPT that in medical transcription there is apparently a “legal” requirement for there to be two spaces after a period and usually after a colon as well. (I have never checked whether this is actually a “legal requirement” — transcription company owners can be awful liars at times. One company wanted one space after all colons and two spaces after periods; another wanted two spaces after ALL punctuation except after the number in a list, when it was only supposed to be one space. How about THAT, punctuation fans?)

    Do I switch back and forth between two spaces and one space because of my job? Oh, hell no: I take all the transcription text I type and run a macro on it to put the correct number of spaces in.

  5. Artur Lerner

    Interesting topic. I was also taught the double-space rule back in the ’80s, in typewriting class in school. I did a little research to find out why they had this rule in the first place. Here’s a quote from a book called InDesign Type:

    “The convention of double spacing after a period is a holdover from the days of the typewriter (remember those?) when fonts were monospaced, that is, all characters had the same width regardless of the shape of the letter, so that an I occupied the same width as a w. The characters were so wide and so open that a single space wasn’t enough between sentences.”

  6. Acknowledging the previous comments, I’ve been a one-space guy since the 1992 book The PC is not a Typewriter: “For years you’ve been told to hit two spaces after periods, and on a typewriter you should. But this is no typewriter.”

  7. MacDaddyWatch

    With mega-sized Comet 5412XXL about to slam into our planet, we are preoccupied with this?

    1. Jon Murphy

      Well, yeah. Don’t you want your final days on earth to be a debate about punctuation? :-P

      Besides, I guess it’s going to miss us.

  8. morganovich

    this is mostly a justification issue.

    if you are using a full justification scheme then you can get away with 1 space and 2 can cause issues. full justification stretches the text to make it fill the lines and 2 space gaps can wind up looking huge.

    if you are using a left justify, then you really want 2 spaces. to not use them looks cramped and weird. see how this sentence does not have enough space from the preceding one? that’s because of left justification.

  9. HTML code does not like two spaces, so the world will change.

    In my Blogger blog, an extra space yields the following error to note the extra (not wanted) space:
     

    All this nonsense because I cannot stop myself from spacing twice after a sentence ends.

  10. Sorry about the last post; HTML code displays the following letters and symbols (without dashes) that look like this: &-n-b-s-p-;

    Obviously typing that gobbledygook deliberately shows nothing but a blank space in the finished document.

  11. Jon Murphy

    I always use two spaces. Always have, always will. Even when I am sending text messages, I use two.

    Is it better to use two? I don’t know. I’ll leave that question to the philosophers.

  12. Must be nice to have the time Ms. Strizver has to get so worked up about nothing.

  13. It’s two spaces for me. I’m 47 years old and that is what was taught to me in high school typing, c. 1983.

  14. Manjoo undermines his argument by admitting there are no objective studies showing how much space yields optimum readability. Everything else is just opinion. We all know aesthetic judgement changes over time, just look at hem lines.

    What bugs me is any piece of software displaying proportional fonts should ignore how many times I hit the space bar and just display the correct amount of horizontal space.

  15. Citizen B.

    The comments on this topic with a double space after a sentence are more effective. Leaving a single space after a sentence makes for a rambling look.

  16. This website says that the various manuals of style say use one space on a proportional spaced font and 2 on a monospaced font like a typewriter: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/spaces-period-end-of-sentence.aspx
    The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP style book and the Modern Language association all endorse the single space on proportional fonts idea.

  17. MacDaddyWatch

    What would Jesus do?

    1. Ok. That’s funny.

    2. Type in Greek, of course.

      1. Type in Greek, of course“…

        Not in Aramaic, eh?

  18. Get over it. One space is all you need.

  19. I begrudgingly use the single space to comply with format requirements, but believe the double space has good rationale. For example, the double space distinguishes the end of a sentence from an abbreviation followed by a capitalized word in the middle of a sentence.

  20. I learned on a manual typewriter and I also learned the two space rule and I REFUSE to change. It’s easier on the eyes. So. There.

  21. Old school was two spaces…

    Now a days we have elctrons to burn and then some…

    So stick with two spaces unless you’re texting or tweeting…

  22. Robert Bauer

    Another thought that I’ve seen no mention of: Just try to read a long paragraph of many sentences in a single block. With proportional spacing, it’s just plain difficult to read, because everything runs together.

    Proper paragraphing is another whole issue, but there are many times when by rights (And content) the paragraph can grow to a half page or more. Adding two spaces after each sentence will make it easier to read because everything is no longer in one big block, it’s easier to find the breaks, easier to find where you left off if you are interrupted, and to match the “spoken pacing” the writer intended.

    Mark, by this time you probably won’t remember, but my class papers tended to match the way I spoke in class, either by use of commas or general sentence structure. I’m picturing my audience, be it a class I’m teaching or a presentation I’m giving, and trying to put across as much of the inflection and other non-verbal clues to paint the picture I intend. I really do want the reader to see the stops or pause for breath.

    I do tend to include too many commas and sometimes other “disapproved” punctuation to emphasize something as I write, but these will usually be pared down to a minimum in subsequent edits for formal papers, books, or manuals. But for casual writing, who really cares? If a publisher wants a single space, or the final output format requires it, as Scarlett said, I can always check with a macro or search-and-replace to catch all those double spaces I’m unconsciously going to be putting in anyway.

    Yes, you can get into trouble with word-wrapping and left-justification if the final printed output ends up with a page or column width that puts that extra space at the beginning of a new line. I suspect that THIS is the real reason professional typesetters want single spaces only. It makes things simpler for them while they’re otherwise mucking around with your work if they don’t have to correct all those unintended shifts. But, if it’s going to be a problem, THEY can use a macro or search-and-replace function. After all, they ARE doing it on a computer, and isn’t this what they’re being paid for?

  23. I was taught two spaces as well. Graduated high school in 1995. Books I read are formatted this way as well.

  24. Max Lybbert

    Personally, I type two spaces out of habit. The argument I’ve seen is that good typesetting programs can automatically insert appropriate space between sentences for you (which is, apparently, *between* one and two spaces). However, (1) I generally don’t work in those programs, (2) those programs can sometimes decide that a period ends a sentence when it does not, or decide that a period does not end a sentence when it actually does, and (3) additional spaces shouldn’t screw up those programs, I don’t feel bad using two spaces.

    To me, a single space after a period looks like a newspaper; a double space looks more like a book.

  25. It depends on the font, especially if it is being printed out. Do what looks cleanest and reads easiest.

  26. The Unknown One

    I’ve never, ever used two spaces after a period. In fact I didn’t even know there was some sort of rule about it until I read this today.

  27. Back in the days of typewriter and fixed-width fonts (Courier on your dot-matrix) it was essential to have two spaces after a period otherwise it was difficult to tell when a sentence ended… Nowadays most fonts are proportional and the extra space in unnecessary.

    –Ed

  28. I read Jan Tschicholds books on typography. One of the typographers best ever. For instance he designed Penguin’s original paperbacks. He totally converted me. I have never double spaced since. Read his “the form of the book”

  29. I remember getting docked a trivial point amount my senior year of high school for refusing to double-space after a sentence. . . and that was back in 2004. I still see people double-spacing today, and when I do, I automatically lower my estimate of their IQ by 15.

    1. Beth L.

      Really, it lowers your opinion of their intelligence? Oops, I just put two space because that is how I was taught. Get over yourself.

      1. Tyler Hazen

        Wow Jake W. I’m glad you’re so unintelligent that you could never conceive of a situation in which students were educated and have even read style guides indicating that 2 spaces is correct and preferable. As an attorney who’s done research on the issue, I still place 2 spaces between sentences because that was how I was educated for 22+ years of my life by educators I respect. But no, you’re right, I’m 15 IQ points dumber because of a spacing choice. I’ll take that 15 point deduction because it still makes me 115 IQ points smarter than you, who I’m guessing has both an IQ and Baby Ruth craving equal to Sloth from the Gooney’s.

        1. John Brunner

          Hi Tyler,
          I understand that you are attempting to be sarcastic, as best you can.
          I would be interested in seeing your “research.” I see scores of articles citing modern style guides that specify one space, but none citing authoritative references indicating two spaces are still preferred. I find it insightful that you did research, but then deferred to your past educators simply because that is how you were taught, with no mention of the results of your research. Like most people who learned to type in the typewriter era, I learned the two-space rule, but have adapted to the modern conventions.
          I also found it interesting that a lawyer had 22+ years of education that directly involved the number of spaces between sentences. I have a Master’s Degree, but can claim only one semester course in High School where I was taught about sentence spacing. I respect my educators, too, but my engineering and computer science courses did not cover this concept. Did your law courses?
          Your IQ may be higher than Jake’s, or it may be lower. Not enough information to go on. I certainly hope that it is not based on the fact that you are a lawyer. I know some lawyers who are really sharp, some not so much. Some are quite lacking in the areas of logic and analytical skills.
          You can add this to your research, it was created specifically for lawyers:
          http://typographyforlawyers.com/one-space-between-sentences.html

  30. Mark, like you I was taught typing on a manual typewriter & recall with great clarity getting points deducted on timed exercises whenever I only single spaced between sentences. To this day I correct draft letters done by those that report to me if they only have one space. I suspected that the ‘one space movement’ was another shortcut initiated by those that avoid human contact at all costs; i.e., those that are addidicted to text messaging.

  31. I was always taught 2 spaces. This confounds me. Have I been taught wrong? Have I really been doing this wrong all along? This will be hard to unlearn if that’s the truth. I’m even double-spacing this comment. Argh, so confused!

  32. Let me join the chorus: I was taught to use two spaces on a mechanical typewriter. I saw some blog post that made this single-space assertion a year back and tried using one space afterwards, but it didn’t stick. My fingers are just trained to do two spaces, doubt I can change now. However, most writing is done for the web these days and most blogging software just drops anything more than one space, whether it’s after a period or not. Here’s a test showing that:

    1 space after this sentence. Does it work?
    2 spaces after this one. Don’t think it will.

    1. Yep, the software inserts two spaces in the second one, but since web browsers ignore anything more than one space- unless it’s specially formatted to show both spaces, which this blog software doesn’t do- there is no difference between how the two sentences are displayed. So do whatever you want, web browsers will just ignore your second space most of the time. :)

  33. I learned to type in on a manual typewriter several decades ago and I use two spaces after periods. I will continue to use two spaces. I also use two spaces after colons and between state abbreviations and zip codes in addresses.

  34. FloridaPaul

    Same as JT above. I learned to type on a manual typewriter in the mid-60′s, and it’s too late to change now. The high priestess of typography can have her funk.

    I still have and use occasionally my IBM Selectric electric typewriter with the changeable typeballs, and love it.

    1. Tyler Hazen

      I graduated law school in 2011 and was still taught double spacing as I had been since I was in high school from 2000-2004. It really looks better in my opinion.

  35. Good typography demands more space between sentences than between an initial and a last name, as in “B. Obama”, which is why double spacing makes sense, even if it is occasionally defeated by software that ignores it. Not obeying in a line that whose spaces are stretched to fill it makes the point clear, if both types of periods occur.

  36. I was taught two spaces, and I LIKE two spaces. It better marks the end of a sentence for a fast reader.

    But it does cause problems with some computer formats, resulting in a space in the front of a line (if the previous line ended with a period, space, space).

    Reluctantly I likely will try to covert to the single period. Hard for us geezers to change. But I’m thinking about buying a cell phone one of these days, so I guess anything is possible.

    1. That’s “singe SPACE,” not “single period.”

      1. Where’s the damn spellchecker??

  37. I read the article as this is news to me. I was taught the 2-space and it is so automatic it’ll be hard to stop. Still, it’s hard to think the 1-space and salad fork on the left rules are the same level of importance as putting girl’s shirt buttons on the left which has added so much joy to my life as I’ve driven them around. Please don’t change that rule. Ooops! 2-spaces everywhere. Sorry.

  38. Rebecca Jaxon

    I learned in typing class long ago to type two spaces at the end of a sentence, too. But now that I am writing, I’ve been told that most publishers want only one space, and they will be unhappy if they have to fix all my extra spaces. So, I am doing my best to change.

  39. Its no big deal.

  40. It’s amazing to me that people can be passionate about this issue. I learned two spaces, but it’s incredibly unimportant. It’s not like it interferes with communication. It is only an aesthetic. Perhaps we should insist on alternating spacing between each sentence. That would be a more clear signal of… something.

  41. I too use the two spaces after a period, same as everyone who learned on a manual typewriter. Note that the iPhone has a setting that allows you to automatically insert a period and two spaces whenever you hit the space bar twice.

  42. Everything you’ve read about this is wrong–except that modern authorities generally agree on the use of one space.

    http://www.heracliteanriver.com/?p=324

    Personally, I like to balance readability with appearance. When I’m working on legal documents with sentences that frequently run more than three lines, I double space. Otherwise I don’t. The arrogance and inflexibility on this issue bother me far more than the typography used.

  43. juandos

    According to this Slate article“…

    Well there’s your problem right there, ‘slate‘…

    Back in the day of typewriters and paper it was always double space between sentences and a double space after a period…

    Now a days when pixels are inordinately cheap compared to paper, typewriter ribbon, and whiteout how does spacing become a detail that needs discussion?

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