Eva van Emden, Freelance Editor

Certified Copy Editor and Proofreader

eva@vancouvereditor.com

January 14, 2011

About typing two spaces after a period

Using the double spaces

I’m happy to see this article in Slate arguing against the practice of putting two spaces after a period. Quite a few people still do this, and I’ve never liked this practice because I see it as putting extra characters into the text without any improvement in readability. I don’t have a compelling reason to recommend against putting two spaces after a period, but here are a few things to consider:
  • It’s prone to inconsistency. If you have extra spaces in arbitrary places in your text, there will be no help from your spell-checker if you forget to put one in. If you justify your text it will be even harder to tell whether each word gap contains the right number of spaces.
  • It’s not compatible with HTML. HTML will normally ignore extra whitespace, so if you want those two spaces to show up on your HTML, you’ll have to either use an HTML generator, or add manual spaces by hand by typing them in as “ ”.
  • The historical reason for typing two spaces between sentences doesn’t hold anymore. The origin of the practice is apparently that when people began to use typewriters, which use monospaced fonts, the double space was adopted as a way to make monospaced text more readable. Nowadays with computers, it’s rare that people use monospaced fonts (Courier is the only one I can think of that gets used with any frequency).
  • Published materials (books, newspapers, magazines, and other professionally produced material) never have a double space after the period. Putting two spaces after the period tends to remind the reader that this is not a professionally produced document.

Removing the double spaces

If you want to remove double spaces between sentences, don’t worry: nothing could be easier. In a word processor you should be able to use search and replace to search for “  ” (two spaces) and replace with “ ” (one space). I always choose the “Replace all” option to change them all at once, and then run it again to close any three-space gaps.

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