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One space, or two?


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One space, or two?

Stacy Rosenblum


I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have lived in ignorant bliss of this issue until very recently.  Then, whilst editing my most recent blog post, a spritely young marketing dude informed me that absolutely, positively, under NO circumstances shall we commit this grievous error.  Did you catch it?  It’s right there.  See it yet?  

TWO spaces after the period.

“WHAT?” said I. “Since when, exactly?”

Apparently since 1970, according to Slate’s Farhad Manjoo. Double spacing after a punctuation mark became passe after the advent of the electric typewriter and the subsequent transition from monospaced to proportional fonts. Proportional fonts allowed for less space to be allotted for slender characters like “l” or “t,” as opposed to the chunkier “m” and “w.”  This advent in typography technology made the end of a sentence easier for the reader’s eye to distinguish, and ushered in a new rule for spacing following a period.  All of the major writing guides (Chicago, MLA, APA, AP) recommend one space following a punctuation mark.  But seriously, how many of us have revisited a writing guide since college or graduate school?

Given that I learned how to type in 1990, I cannot understand how I had been taught to incorrectly to hit the spacebar twice following a punctuation mark. After conducting an informal survey of my peers, I found that nearly all of us were taught to make two spaces at the end of a sentence, although a portion have been “re-educated” to use only a single space.  Even my phone agrees.  When I hit the spacebar twice, viola!  A period is automatically inserted!

Now I’m perfectly willing to progress into the 21st century and eliminate that second space. I don’t want to be outed as “middle aged” just because of an extra keystroke. Mine is an issue of muscle memory, the result of tens of thousands of sentences ended with a satisfying click, click of the space bar is a habit that is challenging to change. I’ll resolve to get with the times, despite being 45 years late, and I’ll probably put this trick to very good use:

If you are someone who can’t break your two spaces after a period habit, have no fear! Simply write as you always would (with two spaces) and, when you are finished, go to the toolbar of your word processing program, click EDIT > FIND > REPLACE and then choose to replace all double spaces with single spaces. Problem solved!

Share your spacing struggle with us! Comment below or give us a shout using #MyloWrites.