Carpe Diem

Controversy: Two spaces or one space between sentences?

According to this Slate articleSpace Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period“:

Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.

More from the article:

Ilene Strizver, who runs a typographic consulting firm The Type Studio, once wrote. “When I see two spaces I shake my head and I go, Aye yay yay,” she told me. “I talk about ‘type crimes’ often, and in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment. It’s a pure sign of amateur typography.”

MP: I confess that: 1) I wasn’t even aware of this issue, and 2) I’m totally “old school” on this rule, probably because I learned how to type on a manual typewriter many years ago and was taught the “two space rule.”

Comments?

HT: Paul Sebastian

56 thoughts on “Controversy: Two spaces or one space between sentences?

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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”

  4. 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.

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

      • 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.

        • 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    • 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. :)

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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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