One space or two?

I was told in high school to use two spaces after the period that ends a sentence. Lately though, I’ve noticed some web sites advocating the use of only one space after the period at the end of a sentence.

So which is correct - one space or two.

Two. Comrade.

Part of that rule comes from the use of a typewriter as opposed to a computer.

I have had to use typewriters and I don’t see how people did it before, it was a lot of work just tyring to get the words to look justified.

I was born in 88 (I think there’s probably a significant change in this over time), and I’ve always been told to use one space. In general, abide by the governing style manual of the environment where you’re writing.

I’m not really sure where you think the definitive answer is going to come from here. I’d check Strunk & White’s Elements of Style if I owned a copy.

Professionally I’ve always been told to use one space.

In high school and university I was told to use one space.

As soon as I started my first job, I noticed that all of our reports/memos/etc. had two spaces. It’s been almost a year and I’m still getting used to it…and I still think it looks wrong.

My understanding is, you should use two spaces if you’re using monospaced font (e.g. Courier, or a mechanical typewriter). If you’re using proportional font (i.e. just about every computer font) you should use one space.

(Monospace means every character takes up the same space - a period takes as much space as the letter M.)

More than you probably ever wanted to know about the history and practice of spacing in typesetting, typewriting, and desktop publishing:

Even editors who still request hardcopy manuscripts are calling for the use of only one space after a period. The two space rule made sense only in the era when typesetters had to manually retype the manuscript to get it into print and the extra space was a safety precaution just in case a tiny, badly inked, or poorly registered period got missed.

Nobody ever used typewriters to justify text. (A slight exaggeration even in the old days and some electronic typewriters could do this before people switched over to computers, but so close to never that only the nitpickiest of nitpickers would even mention it.) You justified type by inserting spaces as needed when composing on a printing machine that was designed to do so.

As a general rule today, never use two spaces after a period unless you are specifically told to do so. Take it from someone who’s been typing manuscripts on manual typewriters, then electric typewriters, then electronic typewriters, then onto computer screens and printing them out for a collective 40 years. The two space days are dead.

While there is no single “correct” style, I believe the general consensus these days is for a single space.

The two-space convention dates mainly to typewriters and to fonts like Courier that imitate them, where each letter takes up exactly the same space. In modern proportional fonts used by word-processing programs, the one-space is convention is generally used. Of course, if you are using full justification the spaces between words are going to vary quite a bit anyway, so two spaces between sentences won’t stand out much.

The Chicago Manual of Style currently recommends a single space, and this CMS copyeditor gives the reasoning.

Here’s more from an professor of English recommending a single space.

Note that web browsers will display a single space no matter how many you type. Quote this post or look at its source for proof.

If you mean justified text along the right margin, then usually people didn’t bother aiming for that. The behavior simply was: one space between words, two spaces between sentences. When the typewriter bell chimed, you knew it was time to finish up your word and hit the carriage return. If it was a long word, you might choose to split and hyphenate it instead of putting it all on the next line.

That was about as much finesse as went into text formatting on typewriters.

They can take my two spaces from my cold, dead hands.

Incidentally, the LaTeX markup system puts extra whitespace (not quite double) after periods by default.

In several contexts nowadays, two spaces are gauche. In others, not so much.

As **Colibri **et al intimate, the original practice of using two spaces after end punctuation was a deliberate workaround for monotype fonts: that is, it was hard to see the ends of sentences when every character had the same width or weight. In contexts where monotype fonts are still de rigeur, such as formally submitted but as-yet-unpublished screenplays or stage scripts, double sentence spacing is expected, because those forms still call for monotype fonts.

However, in print publishing and related disciplines that take sophisticated type for granted, two spaces call attention to themselves as representing an old fogey.

Wow, that’s a lot of spaces. Yeah, in in 1971 I got an A in typing. I was taught to type 2 spaces to delimit sentences. Modern word processors including the one implemented by this message board seems to be able to toss in an appropriately visually aesthetic spacing no matter how many spaces you toss in.

Have you seen how the younger generation writes? Seriously.

Using capital letters marks you as an old fogey.

What are you doing it for? What’s the style manual?

I ask this because, as an editor, I tell authors to please not use two spaces ever, because they can upset the general equilibrium when pouring the author’s manuscript into whatever we’re using to typset it to turn it into a printed book.

But I also do freelance work, and one of the editors I work with likes to have two spaces in the raw copy she gets, I don’t know why. No problem for me, as Word will set it to put in the space, or take out the space, automatically.

The general trend, though, is one space.

I was taught in high school typing class - on a typewriter - to use 2 spaces. That’s the only place I’ve ever heard of that or seen it used in my entire life. This was in 1995 when most other schools were using computers - my school was just ludicrously underfunded.

As long as it’s not no space, like some people persist in doing.

I learned the same thing in high school in 1991 or so, also on a typewriter.

You can have my two spaces after a period when you pry them from my cold dead hands. Now GET OFF MY LAWN, you punks!