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Readers Respond: One Space or Two - What Do You Do?

Responses: 106


Many of you have very strong opinions on little matters such as whether or not to use one space or two at the end of a sentence. While professionally typeset pages use a single space, old habits die hard. Is it readability, appearance, or some other factor that guides your use of spacing at the end of a sentence? Sound Off!

This form is not for asking questions. You will not receive replies to questions. Use the community forums instead.

Update 11/17/2010: Posts are not edited to remove spaces. That's just the way HTML does things. The browser/software strips the spaces so even if those in support of 2 spaces type their comments that way, they won't show up with 2 spaces. No conspiracy. It's just the way the Web works. What's Your Preference?

Real compositors know it is neither!

I've been in printing long enough that when I began, type was set in metal and there were specific rules to follow. On the Linotype the standard following terminal punctuation was a thin and a spaceband (variable). In hand composition it was an EN space (half of point size). Inter-word spacing was a "3 to em" space (one third of point size). If the face was condensed or expanded then an appropriate combination was used. You didn't make a mistake or the head comp would send you back to do it over. That "search and replace" was quite literal and tedious. With the transition to electronic composition, the results often became sloppy because either the machines didn't have the necessary spacing option or the shop was following the salesman's pledge that now "anyone can set type." The real objective of good typography is readability, and that requires attention to detail.
—Guest drucker

Space between puntuation

HI I have been using one space between punctuation marks for years, although I do remember in high school english class hearing about two spaces. I am actually unsure which is correct.
—Guest Louis


My friend just sent me a link to this forum. I'm literally in shock! So many of the comments defend double spacing at the end of a sentence as the "correct" way of punctuating a sentence. It is not! All the style manuals (APA, MLA, Chicago) clearly state that only one space should be used after a period or other sentence-ending punctuation. The kerning on a proportionally spaced font allows for adequate space after a period, exclamation point or question mark, making double spacing unnecessary. It is NOT a matter of preference. It was NOT initiated by publishers trying to print books more cheaply and save money. I love the commenter who says she's read John Grisham novels that use single spacing at the end of sentences and it drives her crazy. I guess all she's every read are John Grisham novels, because all professionally published media is correctly punctuated, using only one space at the end of each sentence.
—Guest ifnot4george


Do you guys read books? Magazine articles? American typetsetters have been single spacing after periods, colons, exclamation points and question marks since the turn of the century. I defy you to find a recently published book that uses the two space convention. Did you guys graduate from high school? Show me one text book that you used that uses the two space convention. As a designer for a large corporation, I detest having to remove those extra spaces that y'all insist are correct. Every design manual is on my side, friends. I invite you to catch up to the 21st century.
—Guest Elizabeth

Religious reasons

I'm sure that somewhere in the Bible there is a commandment that thou must put two spaces after a period.
—Guest King James

Less errors? Come on!

Am I the only one who finds the less vs. fewer mistake in an article about correct writing to be funny? If you can count it, the proper word is "fewer." If you can't count it, use "less." Fewer coffee beans means less coffee to drink. Oh, and I'm a big fan of two spaces after a period. It helps delineate one sentence from another. **NOTE FROM GUIDE: I searched my site and find the only place with "less errors" is in a reader contributed statement -- not within any of the articles I wrote. If I've somehow missed where I used that exact phrase in one of my articles (not being perfect and all that jazz) I apologize and will correct it if I find it. **
—Guest Perry

Industrialized spacing

Eliminating wide spacing between sentences was most likely a cost-saving decision with most publishers. The shift to word spacing coincided with the industrialization of printing. Identifying the end of a sentence is not as simple as finding every period. Periods are found in other uses, and other punctuation can end sentences. Correctly adding wide spacing requires additional work and attention from the typesetter, and also introduces greater possibility for errors. If sentence spacing matched word spacing typesetters could work more quickly, and with less errors. This was certainly the motivation with HTML's handling of sentence spacing. When the original architects of the web discussed this issue, their sole motivation was simplifying the software. The simplest thing was to do nothing, letting the underlying SGML standard that HTML was based on eliminate all extra spaces. If you want to be a cog in the machine, insist on one space.
—Guest Tom

Stream of conciousness

I have 3 sons 18-20 years old, including twins. I read their papers for proofing and find such an annoying tendency towards writing with one space after a period and with writing a stream of consciousness where thoughts never really end. I believe that the incessant use of run-on sentences is exacerbated by the use of the one space rule. Visually, the one space rule creates the illusion that the thought never ends. I find their writing to be terrible to read because it is so hard to know when one thought ends and another begins. The one space rule, in my mind, only encourages a continuous stream of thought with run-on sentences and unfinished thoughts.
—Guest KC77


Who started this war on two spaces? And sho made up the ridiculous story about typewriters and typesetting? That was never the reason for using extra space after a period or colon. The amount of space has to do with the punctuation and its function.
—Guest Molly

Tell the computer what to do.

I think this all started with the desktop computer. By now programmers in word processing should have provided for an em space to follow a period when you hit the space bar. Double spaces still do make text easier to read
—Guest Merton Cota

One space on 4chan, two everywhere else.

I'm under 25, I have rarely used a typewriter, but I will always type two spaces. Tight spacing makes your writing look rushed and will make the reader rush through it as well. It also makes the period appear to have the same emphasis as any other break in thought, when its purpose is to stop the reader entirely. I hate breaking a single thought into several sentences; I prefer to make it very clear what concept belongs where. Two spaces allows for a separation distinct from anything within a sentence, clearly uniting each individual thought and separating it from the others. I have never seen a single font that adjusts spacing in any acceptable way. Microsoft Office programs spaced my text so horribly on nearly every font and setting that I abandoned those programs (and all Windows nonsense) altogether. I prefer to adjust my font manually, and of course use two spaces between sentences, because I want my writing to be read like writing-- not just a really long tweet.
—Guest Marietta

I prefer two

A sentence is a complete unit of thought. A clause is not. Of course a clause can function as a complete unit, but then it ends with a period or some other punctuation mark besides a comma. Right? One space after a period puts the period in the same class as a comma or semi-colon. The difference between a comma, which looks like a period with a tail, and a period, which looks like a comma without a tail, requires more in my opinion than adding a little tail to a period or taking it off from a comma. The extra space provides that difference. I think people with some deterioration in vision are likely to be grateful for this added difference. For them this is often a practical matter, not an aesthetic one. Especially since some corneal deformations, which often worsen with age, can appear to add a little tail to a period. I don't need two spaces after a question mark or an exclamation mark. But I usually put them after those punctuation marks, too, because we generally expect to
—Guest Dewain

One over two

I prefer one space over two, it saves time, it saves energy, and though I learned two spaces first, I have somehow changed to one space. Why not change to one, it will save time, and you will be with the rest of us modern people.
—Guest Zapperier

Two spaces is best!

"One space - definitely! We use full justification and if there are two spaces between sentences, the space gets wider when the line is justified, so it's not aesthetically pleasing. —Guest Maria Felten" Ha ha ha. What a joke! Justified text is the worst convention ever started. It is the least aesthetically pleasing practice of all! Here we are arguing about one or two spaces after sentences when justified text can have one, two, three and more spaces between words with different spacing between words in consecutive sentence! Ugh! The worst convention ever!
—Guest Bob

I prefer two spaces

Does this sentence have two spaces after it? I hope so! (Guide note: No, in HTML there won't be two spaces unless you explicitly code an extra space... otherwise they get stripped out automatically leaving just one space.)
—Guest Dale

What's Your Preference?

One Space or Two - What Do You Do?

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