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Hell hath no fury like two spaces after a period scorned…..

March 28, 2012

Tired of talking about the basketball tournament and brackets? Looking to stir up an engaging conversation at the water cooler?

Try out this question I posted on Facebook…

I know the answer,
But what say you,
One space
after a period

or two?

Who knew punctuation could be so controversial? Over 30 people nearly declared war on the single space, demanding two blank spaces should follow the period. “My typing teacher told me so,” they admonished. Whoa.

The poor older folks who learned to type on a typewriter are reluctant to get off the rickety ole bandwagon of yesteryear and hop on the one space train of today. Even when the experts who write the editing bibles like The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook , and the Modern Language Association recommend using one space after a period at the end of a sentence.

(Just by the by – the practice of using two spaces is usually called “French spacing” and is considered outdated.)

The rationale is simple. Typefaces used to be monospaced, meaning each letter took up the same amount of space on the page (you can see this in the font called courier). Putting two spaces after a period eased readability. Computer fonts can be proportionally spaced which automatically eases readability (notice an “l” takes up less space than an “w”). This makes an empty space look like an empty space rather than a part of a word.

Number one hubby works at a publishing company. They edit over 17 million pages a year. Pssst. They use one space after a period.

What say you – one space or two?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2012 1:01 pm

    You’re still advocating one space between sentences? What happened, you fell of your dinosaur and landed on a Linotype machine?

    Seriously though, you should ask your husband the reasons WHY the print industry abandoned wide sentence spacing 60 years ago. Odds are he won’t know why, let alone that they used to use wide sentence spacing. But if he goes to the trouble of finding out, you’ll see why we can’t really accept the outcome.

    The typewriter myth is just that, a myth. Fonts before the typewriter were nearly all proportional and wide spacing was, um, widely used. But when printing became industrialized, it was just cheaper to stop doing it. That is the only reason for the change.

    But that doesn’t apply when individuals are creating content. Typing two spaces is easy, and it clarifies the period’s use as being a full stop, and not anything else. Abandoning two spaces makes as much sense as abandoning the use of capitalization. It’s a net loss in information, and the only gain is that the print industry saved a bunch of money.

    • January 2, 2013 2:12 pm

      Hi Thomas and welcome! I appreciate your comments but can’t help but notice that you used one space between your periods. 😉

  2. April 22, 2012 10:21 am

    Waste of time and space…and very outdated, 1800’s I’d say. Double-spaced is enough extra room for any editor to do their thing. But is does bring to mind a great little story, although I can’t remember if it was O. Henry or Mark Twain who wrote it, telling of an epic argument that broke out between two very well-known authors on the use of commas. I’ll try to find it and reprint here. The truth is that the use of commas in the English language has always been in doubt, mainly due to the differences between British and American usage of this important but controversial spacer.

  3. April 6, 2012 6:44 pm

    What does the name of the spacing technique have to do with how outdated it is? (You tryin’ to say somethin’ about French people???) For that matter, what does something being old have to do with whether it is good or bad? There are times that you use a period within a sentence that do not signify the sentence’s end–for example, a person’s initials. I’d like to be able to tell the difference between someone’s initials and the end of a sentence at a glance, without having to stop and look harder.

    It’s like them saying we have no use for the Oxford comma. Oh, yes we do. Someone was distributing a rather hilarious cartoon about JFK and Stalin to that effect some months ago.

    People are saying “mediums” instead of “media” for more than one medium, and all manner of other ridiculous things. Doesn’t mean I have to go along with them.

  4. susanscottsa permalink
    April 2, 2012 9:03 am

    One space surely!

  5. Donna permalink
    April 1, 2012 7:52 am

    Fan of 2 – sorry my dear, and yes I’m OLD!!!!

  6. March 30, 2012 11:02 am

    As much as I want to agree with you, maybe I’m just used to two spaces. I think it provides better reading and transition than one space, even with modern fonts. All me Old School, but two is better than one!

  7. Amritorupa Kanjilal permalink
    March 28, 2012 5:50 pm

    I didn’t even know they taught typists to put two spaces after a period. Yeah, this looks weird.

  8. naomihattaway permalink
    March 28, 2012 12:01 pm

    Ok so I’m NOT an old folk … but it is ridiculously hard to only hit the space bar ONE time vs. TWO!!!

    Don’t even comment on my annoying and constant use of the ellipses!

  9. raneedillon permalink
    March 28, 2012 11:25 am

    You already know my answer. ~smile~ Great post, sweetie!

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