In connection with the often hotly debated topic of one space or two spaces after punctuation, a reader writes "All I want to know is how to turn double space into single space in a document as required by a publisher. Can you help?" The most frequently offered solution is to do a search and replace — also called find and replace.
Time Required: A few seconds to several minutes to remove extra spaces depending on the length of the document.
Use Search and Replace
Search your document for occurrences of two spaces and replace those with a single space. Depending on your software you may need to look up special characters to use in the search/replace field. Other software will simply allow you to type in a space as if you were typing in any other character or word. Although it can be done in some desktop publishing software, word processing software may offer more options for the search and replace operation.
Some options (use the characters, not the words):
- Search for space space. Replace with space.
- Search for period space space. Replace with period space.
- Search for question mark space space. Replace with question mark space.
- Search for exclamation mark space space. Replace with exclamation space.
- Search for ellipsis space space. Replace with ellipsis space.
Learn How to Do Search and Replace
These tutorials are for WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, and Adobe InDesign. Check the Help files of your software. All good word processing and page layout software offers some type of search and replace function.
- WordPerfect - Find & Replace Codes
- How to Find & Replace Text in Microsoft Word
- Using Word's Advanced Find & Replace (replace spaces and more)
- Removing Extra Paragraph Breaks in Word
- Replacing Special Characters in InDesign (scroll down)
Remove Extra Spaces in Web Pages
Normally, extra spaces won't show up in Web pages even if the HTML is typed with two or more spaces. However, if you've been given HTML-coded text that includes the non-breaking space character (which will show up as extra spaces on Web pages) you'll need to remove those characters if you want to have only one space after periods and other punctuation. Use search & replace but you'll need to specify the non-breaking space character as the space to remove. Be careful though. Non-breaking space characters may be used in other spaces where you do want the extra space.
Create a Macro
If removing extra spaces is something you have to do regularly, create a macro to automate the process. This technique also works for eliminating extra returns between paragraphs.
Whether doing you're search/replace manually or with a macro, always proofread your text again after removing spaces to make sure you didn't remove too many spaces, obliterate punctuation, or miss spots where there may have been three extra spaces instead of just two, for instance. Always proofread after doing any kind of actions, especially automated actions, on your text.
Follow the Style Guide
Check the style manual in use for the organization you're preparing material for before stripping out or adding in extra spaces after ending punctuation or other places. Some style manuals, editors, or teachers may require the extra spaces in typed manuscripts.
Teach Your Typist
If the material you are preparing for publication always uses single spaces after punctuation but you regularly receive typed material that includes two spaces, contact those copywriters or typists supplying the material and ask them to only use one space between sentences.
What You Need:
- Software With Search/Replace Capability