Get The Answer To The One Or Two Debate
- Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
- M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
- B.A., English, State University of New York
Put just one space after a period.
If you grew up using a typewriter, you were probably taught to put two spaces after a period . But like the typewriter itself, that custom went out of fashion many years ago.
With modern word-processing programs, a second space is not only inefficient but potentially troublesome: it can cause problems with line breaks.
In most cases, computers use proportional fonts so that a single keystroke creates the proper space between sentences. In addition, there’s no evidence that an extra space makes a document any easier to read.
Of course, if you’re still using a typewriter, feel free to continue putting two spaces after a period.
Years Back I Was Taught That Two Spaces Should Follow A Period In A Paragraph I Was Working On A Document And Noticed The Author Used Both One Space And Two Spaces Between Sentences I Changed All Of The Occurrences To Two Spaces But In Discussions With Others I Was Told A Single Space Is Now The New Normwhich One Is Correct One Or Two Spaces In Business Writing
I have a clear and easy answer for this question: One space is correct.
UPDATE: As of April 24, 2020, Microsoft has settled the great space debate, and sided with everyone who believes one space after a period is correct, not two. The software giant has started to update Microsoft Word to highlight two spaces after a period as an error, and to offer a correction to one space. Microsoft recently started testing this change with the desktop version of Word, offering suggestions through the Editor capabilities of the app.
Additionally, the American Psychological Associations Publication Manual, after decades of recommending two spaces changed their recommendation to one space in its most recent update in October 2019.
Can You End A Quote With An Ellipsis
In general, it is not necessary to use an ellipsis at the beginning or end of a quotation, even if you are quoting from the middle of a sentence. An exception is that you should include an ellipsis if, to prevent misinterpretation, you need to emphasize that the quotation begins or ends in midsentence.
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Rules For Spacing With Other Punctuation
Since the spacing rules for periods have changed, are other types of punctuation affected? Youll be pleased to learn that the single space rule applies across the board for stopping punctuation. This group includes exclamation points, periods, and question marks. One space should be used after them all.
The rules for commas, semi-colons, and colons have not changed. They continue to require a single space.
The rules remain the same in a double-spaced documentthat is, one with extra space between lines. You will still put a single space after each sentence.
How Two Spaces Evolved
If you learned to type on a typewriter before word processors became the norm, two spaces after a period was required and taught as correct. The extra space was needed to delineate the beginning of a new sentence because the spacing between words was uneven on a typewriter.
If you didnt learn to type on a typewriter, youre likely using two spaces after the period because youre modeling the writing of someone who did learn to write on a typewriter.
Typewriters gave every character the same space on the screen. This is called monospaced typesetting.
In contrast, word processing software uses proportionally spaced fonts, which automatically adjust the spacing between characters to accommodate the varying width of letters. This is called proportional typesetting.
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Postscript: Spacing After Other Marks Of Punctuation
As a general rule, put one space after a period, comma, colon, semicolon, question mark, or exclamation point. But if a closing quotation mark immediately follows any one of these marks, don’t insert a space between the two marks. Here’s how that looks in American English:
John said he was tired. Mary said she was “knackered.” I said I was hungry.
In British English, as a general rule, knackered would be in single quotes and the period would follow the closing quotation mark: In either case, don’t insert a space between the period and the closing quotation mark.
“Spacing around the dash varies,” according to “Merriam-Webster’s Manual for Writers and Editors.” “Most newspapers insert a space before and after the dash many popular magazines do the same, but most books and journals omit spacing.” So choose one way or the other, and then be consistent throughout your text.
Easy Way To Eliminate Surplus Spaces After Sentences
View your manuscript such that all your formatting marks are shown on the screen. In Word, this means clicking the back-to-front P sign in the top toolbar:
Your spacebar spaces will show as dots. The easiest way to check for excess ones is then to type in into the search box, to highlight each incidence. Then simply delete the surplus spaces/dots.
You might also want to try or even more multiples to be on the safe side.
While you’re unlikely to get a negative review for an otherwise fabulous read because you’ve used two or more spaces after each period, it’s attention to detail like this that separates the professionals from the amateurs.
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Modern Technology And The Computer Era
Starting in the mid-19th century, mass-produced printing began to gain popularity. This increase led printing presses, still expensive ventures then, to look for ways to reduce costs, simplify the printing process, and shorten printing time.
Coincidentally, this was also the time that magazine, newspaper, and book publications began using the single-space convention. Perhaps its a way to cram more letters into a page and simplify manuscripts, or maybe its simply an aesthetic change. The exact reasons are unclear and still up for debate.
Another contributor to the change may be innovations to the typewriter itself. In 1941, IBM released the Executive, a typewriter capable of proportional spacing, thus breaking the typewriters monospaced limitations. It is important to know though, that this innovation wasnt adopted by the majority of typewriter models.
The appearance of more advanced technologies also advanced the single-space convention. Electronic phototypesetting systems ignored consecutive word spaces and collapsed them into a single space once detected. When the World Wide Web was invented, its HTML format ignores additional spacing.
The invention of word processing software such as Microsoft Word also made proportional spacing even more common, making the spaces between words and sentences more pronounced. This eliminated the need for extra spaces.
Okay So How Many Spaces Should I Type After A Period
The best answer is type as many spaces as you want because its a trivial matter. If you prefer the look of the wide space, go for it. But here are some considerations:
Most popular style manuals, including Chicago manual of Style and MLA indicate a single space. If youre writing for a publication, use the style guide they specify or face the wrath of your editor.
If youre typing on the webfor example, writing a blog post like this oneyou can type endless consecutive spaces and all but the first one will be ignored. HTML forces single spacing unless you specify additional spaces with special escape sequences within the code .
If youre a designer and you wish to emulate the look of a pre-1960 book, you can add double spaces after your periods for authenticitys sake. Otherwise, when you send your manuscript out for typesetting , the first thing your typesetter will do is strip out all your double-spaces and reduce them to single spaces.
The convention today, even if you learned to type from a traditionalist, is the single space. Pick up any book or magazine in a bookstore. See for yourself. Check out any journalistic or academic style manual. The single space has been the new style for over fifty years, regardless of what your typing teacher taught you.
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The Great Debate: How Many Spaces After A Period
by Cole Salao |
Of all the issues people debate about today, youd be surprised that sentence spacing is among the fiercest controversies, to the point that researchers felt it needed to be studied.
One side believes that using only one space after a period is the correct way. On the other hand, the opposition thinks it needs to be two. But which of them is correct? Or is this a classic case of potato, potahto?
Style And Language Guides
Early style guides for typesetting used a wider space between sentences than between words”traditional spacing”, as shown in the illustration to the right. During the 20th century, style guides commonly mandated two spaces between sentences for typewritten manuscripts, which were used prior to professionally typesetting the work. As computer desktop publishing became commonplace, typewritten manuscripts became less relevant and most style guides stopped making distinctions between manuscripts and final typeset products. In the same period, style guides began changing their guidance on sentence spacing. The 1969 edition of the Chicago Manual of Style used em spaces between sentences in its text by the 2003 edition it had changed to single sentence spacing for both manuscript and print. By the 1980s, the United Kingdom’s Hart’s Rules had shifted to single sentence spacing. Other style guides followed suit in the 1990s.Soon after the beginning of the 21st century, the majority of style guides had changed to indicate that only one word space was proper between sentences.
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How To Replace Two Spaces With One Space
Old habits can be difficult to break, of course, but with focus one space will become your natural impulse. What if you find it hard to use one space after many years of adding two spaces after a full stop or colon?
Use the “Find and Replace” option in your word processor to remove the extra space. In more recent versions of Word, look for the Replace in the Home ribbon at the top of the screen.
In the Find what tab, type period followed by two empty spaces . In the Replace with tab type period followed by one empty space.
If you have used double space with other punctuation marks make sure to replace them as well.
Or, use good grammar and spell-check tools such as Grammarly, which will flag the incorrect two spaces for you.
Why We Moved To One Space
With the introduction of the personal computer in the 1980s, proportional typefaces began to replace monospaced typefaces. Now each letter had a proportional amount of space, meaning that an “i” took up less space than an “m.” The industry standard shifted away from two spaces after a period as the new typefaces became more and more popular.
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Mechanical Type And The Advent Of The Typewriter
Mechanical type systems introduced near the end of the 19th century, such as the Linotype and Monotype machines, allowed for some variable sentence spacing similar to hand composition. Just as these machines revolutionized the mass production of text, the advent of the typewriter around the same time revolutionized the creation of personal and business documents. But the typewriters’ mechanical limitations did not allow variable spacingtypists could only choose the number of times they pressed the space bar. Typists in some English-speaking countries initially learned to insert three spaces between sentences to approximate the wider sentence spacing used in traditional printing, but later settled on two spaces, a practice that continued throughout the 20th century. This became known as English spacing and marked a divergence from French typists, who continued to use French spacing.
So Why Did We Use Two Spaces
If you learned to type on a typewriter or word processor, using one space may seem sloppy. The double tap tap of the spacebar after you finish a sentence probably feels like second nature. And when you learned to type, that was true! But like many aspects of our daily lives, computers have changed everything.
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How Many Spaces After A Period The Truth
A survey of the history of printing reveals that wide spaces after a period were standard practice until the style changed from wide spacing to narrow spacing between 19501960. Typists were directed to hit the space-bar twice to imitate the em-space, which had been the style for centuries.
Figure 1. , the em-spaces are evident in red. Note also the spaces before the semicolons and the strange spacecolonem-dash combination that are no longer seen in todays typography.
Figure 2. is from a book by the poet, E.E. Cummings. Though the poet was known to take typographical liberties, this looks like straightforward use of the double-space.
Figure 3. Type sample from 1961
What happened? The electronic teletypesetter appeared around 1950. It stored typed information by perforating a paper ribbon and sent that information to a linotype machine that cast lines o type in lead on the fly. The technological idiosyncrasies of that machine caused a double-stroke of the space-bar to result in an error. The line would need to be retyped and production would slow down. A double-space could even damage the machine resulting in downtime for repairs. The particulars of this are well-documented, but wide spacings demise can be attributed to the march of technology. It wasnt the typewriter that required two spaces it was the teletypesetter that required single spaces.
Space After A Periodor 2 Spaces
Should you use 1 space after a periodor 2 spaces? There are lots of opinions about this, and several studies have even been done to answer this question.
If you ask The Chicago Manual of Style, they recommend 1 space after a period. But other publications argue for 2 spaces.
But a recent study by Skidmore scientists, published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, studied how people readusing an eye-tracking software. They discovered that using 2 spaces after a period offered a slight speed advantage than 1 space.
Personally, I recommend 2 spaces after a periodmainly because it adds more white space to the page, making it easier to skim for todays insanely fast readers.
But if your boss prefers 1 space, then use 1 space.
At the end of the day, consistency matters most. Whichever you choose, 1 space OR 2 spacesjust make sure that you, your team, and your organization are consistent within each documentand across documents companywide.
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What The Experts Say
One versus two spaces after a period is more than just preference. Here is the official ruling from the APA style and grammar guide:
Use one space after a period when writing in APA Style.
The Chicago Manual of Style is on board with the one space rule. They made it official way back in 2003 and they remain firm in their stance to this day. The MLA is in on it too, saying Leave one space after a period or other concluding punctuation mark.
Invention Of Movable Type
Lets go back to when the movable type was just invented by Johannes Gutenberg.
Back then, spacing was highly variable to account for any size of spaces and to allow for consistent justification .
Printers loosely followed style guides that stated sentences should be em-spaced and words must be 1/3 or 1/2 em-spaced.
The purpose of such a large space after sentences was partly for aesthetics and partly for signaling that a sentence is at an end. But even then, a spacing technique called French spacing used single spaces between sentences.
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It Makes Your Writing Look Dated
Word processing has been around for a long time and we should update our writing to reflect current tools.
The wonderful blog The Cult of Pedagogy explains this well in an article entitled, Nothing Says Over 40 Than Two Spaces after a Period!
The lesson to business writers is that two spaces date-stamps our writing.
Extra space between sentences creates a river of white in marketing documents, diminishing the impact.
Dianna Huff, a respected and experienced manufacturing marketing writer recently affirmed this on Twitter:
Legal Writing: How Many Spaces After A Period Follow
To follow up on our earlier post, titled Legal Writing: How Many Spaces After a Period?, Daily Writing Tips blog outlines the historical perspective of this question in its newest blog post, One or Two Spaces After a Period?, written by Maeve Maddox. The author looks at the history of writing in an attempt to find out where did the two space after period come from. The author further references two articles on this topic that document the evolution of the spacing convention: How Many Spaces After a Period? Ending the Debate, by David Brickert and Why Two Spaces After a Period Isnt Wrong, by a writer at Heraclitean River.
So, Do you put one or two spaces after a period? The answer, according to present-day conventions: one space.
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