Two spaces after a period

When people used to learn how to type on a typewriter, the “two space after a period” rule was a must, since additional space was needed to show the difference between the spacing between a word which was smaller and the spacing between the sentences which was larger. The world has since changed. You’re not going to like it when I say no two spaces after a period, just use one.

You were probably taught to use double space after a period in high school typing class too, but that was wrong. How do you change the habit? You can easily break the habit as I haven’t used or tempted to type two spaces for decades. Quitting two spaces after a period is not like quitting a lot of things, like smoking. You don’t find yourself in a nostalgic typewriting situation and suddenly get hit by an unexpected urge to use a double space after a period.

Most people have been using two spaces after a period, as they were taught, but to correctly follow most style guides, you only need to use one which is more than enough to differentiate a sentence and words on most modern computers.


The easy way to get rid of two spaces after a period

If you don’t want to read the whole reasoning behind using only one space after a period, there is a simple shortcut to get rid of all double spacing in your documents. Simply use the CTRL + H in most word processors on Windows and COMMAND COMMAND +SHIFT + H on Mac. Then in the “Find” text box, type ”  ” without the quotes. That’s two spaces, what you’re searching for. Then in the “Replace with” text box type ” ” without the quotes, a single space. Then click “Replace All” and voila, your double spacing becomes single spacing.


Modern style: one space after period

If you still use two spaces after a period then you will be tormenting your editor. Most editors keep begging people to only use one space. Using two spaces after period they have to delete one, don’t think it’s not hard with search-and-replace, so it’s not hard to place dishes in the dishwasher either, the fact that you don’t like doing that, do you?

If the sympathy of the editors doesn’t move you, then you rule follower although some rules are not worth it. You don’t have to put up with a lot of to-heck-with-the-rules types of listeners or readers. And the new rule should be a one-space world not double space after a period.

Top style guides such Chicago Manual of Style, AP stylebook, and US Government printing office style manual recommends once space after a period.

Space after period’s story is always told as though the monospaced typewriter fonts needed double space after a sentence for excellent readability. The wide availability of proportional fonts on computers led to the use of single space.

Using a monospaced font the letters are all the same width, hence an I is the same width as an m. The proportional fonts the letter differ in widths, hence an i is much narrow than an m.

In fixed-width for example, the horizontal space used for the letter “j” is the same as that used for letter “k”.

  • Three jjj’s
  • Three kkk’s

Check the two sentences below:

  • Fonts such as Courier New will accomplish this task.
  • There are 49 letters and 3 numbers in this sentence.
  • Do 52 alphanumerical characters it in the same space?


Variable width fonts (proportionally)

Examples are spaced such as Arial, Verdana, Geneva and time new roman using a different amount of horizontal space depending on the width of the letter.

Example 1

  • Three jjj’s
  • Three kkk’s

Example 2: the sentences below have 52 characters.

  • Arial is a proportionally spaced font that does not.
  • Do 52 alphanumerical characters fit in the same space?
  • There are 49 letters and 3 numbers in the sentence.


Most publishers advise leaving the single character space, double spaces, between and after colons used within a sentence when working on either a manuscript and published work.

The AP clearly states the rule, and the MLA acknowledges that most presses use one space. The question remains way? And why did your grammar teacher tell you to use two spaces?

When handwriting, there’s nothing like uniform spacing; only if your handwriting is as terrible mine, hence wider spacing to make it clear new sentence has started.

Grammar Girl states the main reason why double space after period started with most typewriter using monospaced fonts as explained above. Note that the period of a monospaced font is quite far out from the final letter of the sentence, unlike in computers. If using dry typewriters ribbons the period will at times be almost invisible.

The shortcoming noted the reason arises to use an extra space: double space after the period to ensure the sentences concluding was visible even when the periods were not visible.


What about after colons?

It has always been one space after the colon; the traditional American typing practice, enjoyed by some people, who leave double space after colons and periods. The University of Chicago press, especially for formally published and manuscripts works from which they are published discourages the use of double space after the colon.


The shift to one space after a period

The story of space at the end of sentences is complicated that the traditional lore, with the many years of professional printing before the typesetters, typewriter tends to use wide spaces after the periods. The era of a typewriter, two spaces after period ruled, the computer era and the shift of typewriter to computer tools for typing, one space become the standard.

HTML and most of the blogging platforms, even if you use double spacing, they are eventually turned into one space after period. In special cases, where you need multiple spaces, you must hard code it in using the HTML code for space, such as &nbps giving you a nonbreaking space.

By doing so the program won’t break a line at the space a special way to keep two words together, hence they don’t end up on two lines such as dates or a name.


The advantages of a single space

The single space after period seems to have many advantages. It very appealing, and improves the sense of sentence flow, hence preventing the readers from getting distracted by the purgatory of an extra blank area.

The real advantages of using single space boil down to:

  • Single space is the new standard, so double space after period looks like an error.
  • HTML writing and anywhere on the web automatically removes double space, reinforce one space after period making any worrying at second space useless.
  • Double space after period, your editor will wind up doing find-and-replace and your work wind up with one space after a period adding benefits is a frustrated editor.

Recommending one space after a period doesn’t mean double space has no advantages. It has always been an element of clarity in distinguishing the end of a sentence from an abbreviation.  Further, it makes it clear a new sentence has started even if a word is not capitalized.

Lastly, you need to think of switching over to a single space. It starts with obsessing over double space after period, killing them with great displeasure, an event with a sense of loss. Within several weeks you will find and replace on every document you wrote as you will be leaving a few extra spaces in.

Within a month you will break the double space after period habit and always keep the one space after period standard in mind.


Additional Reference