General Question

brownlemur's avatar

One or two spaces after a period between sentences?

Asked by brownlemur (4086points) January 10th, 2008

I always learned that it is proper to place 2 spaces between a period and the first word of the next sentence. Evidently this is not a universal rule anymore. Google gives contradictory answers, so I want to hear from you all.

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27 Answers

ccatron's avatar

I’ve always done 2 spaces as well. Its just easier to read.

absolutely's avatar

Two is proper, but I use one for text messaging.

miltonandmichele's avatar

I’ve always used two…at least that’s what I learned in typing class in high school 21 years ago.

andrew's avatar

The only time you use two spaces is if you’re typing in a monospaced font (i.e. Courier), where every letter has the same width.

The two-space rule came about during the days of type-written letters, and is totally defunct in today’s world where no one really uses monospaced fonts anymore.

I’d argue that it’s neither proper nor visually appealing… it breaks the flow of the sentence. The only reason it has persisted is because we remember that it was “proper” when we learned to type.

ccatron's avatar

@andrew “it breaks the flow of a sentence” isn’t that the point? A period usually comes at the end of a sentence, right?

andrew's avatar

@ccatron Sorry, I meant the paragraph.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find any major publication or website worldwide that uses a double space after a period.

smart1979's avatar

It’s supposed to be 2 in order to seperate sentances apart, and make it easier to recognize the end of a sentance, where when you use a comma or other type of punctuation there is just 1 space.

The reason we now see just one space after a period mostly is because most web browsers will only render 1 space, regardless of how many you actually use.

Zaku's avatar

It’s a matter of style, not correctness, unless you are supposed to be following a style. Many classes I took asked for two spaces, but that’s only a rule in the context of those classes.

If you’re writing in a context with rules, read the style guide or ask someone in that context. Otherwise, choose what you like and be consistent. Or, protest the inconsistency by using a random number of spaces. Be free… ;-)

segdeha's avatar

The internets know… Though it originated and is primarily used in the United States, this practice is called French spacing. It is not correct except when using a monospaced font. Here are some references:

Microsoft Word Help FAQ
Rules of Desktop Publishing

ccatron's avatar

i wonder why “french” is applied to so many things. french kissing, french fries and now french spacing? maybe that would be a good fluther question. you know what I just noticed? Fluther will not let you type extra spaces. it will reformat your response to 1 space if you put 2+. so, there you go, i guess. Fluther FTW.

segdeha's avatar

@ccatron, That’s just a feature of HTML. You can type 1 space or 18 spaces, a newline, and a tab… and they’ll both be rendered as 1 space.

andrew's avatar

@ccatron(off topic):
French inhale, french cuffs, french bread, french toast.
Used to be a game I played backstage with a good friend of mine.

ccatron's avatar’re right, I didn’t think about that…Just shows how bad of a hobby web designer I am! haha, I have been exposed!

boydieshere's avatar

Generally for formal essays, two spaces is proper, but in journalistic writing, only one space is used.

hossman's avatar

I prefer my students to use two spaces for several reasons. First, since I can’t always count on them to use a period at the end of the sentence, nor to capitalize the first letter of the next sentence, sometimes two spaces is the only signal I get of a sentence break. Second, I find two spaces helps with the “thought break” between sentences. Third, it gives me more space to squeeze in proofreading symbols, since some of their writing is so bad the space between every double spaced line is full. Finally, I find it assists in the reader’s comprehension and when read aloud, the reader pauses longer between sentences, assisting in the audience’s comprehension.

But this is a style choice, not a mandate. Myself, since I learned to type that way, it’s reflex now.

segdeha's avatar

@hossman, Please tell me your students are in, like, middle school!

Emily's avatar

For work newsletters and other written materials, our publications staff have informed me that I should write everything with one space instead of two, and I’m sure they are following some formal writer’s guide rule. But perhaps it’s a journalistic rule, as boydieshere says, and not for academic essays.

PupnTaco's avatar

One space. See the excellent, concise (and cross-platform) style guide “The Mac Is Not a Typewriter.”

hossman's avatar

@segdeha: Nope, high school seniors. Scary, isn’t it? I don’t mind these errors for those who are learning English as a second language (the high school I teach at is exceptionally diverse, white students are a minority, a very high percentage of the students come from families who have been in the U.S. less than 5 years), but many of my students are just lazy.

segdeha's avatar

I was afraid you were going to say that.

andrew's avatar

@pupnTaco: Yes! That’s exactly the book I read in the 90’s! Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

woodardfamily4's avatar

Okay, so I’m having this same debate with my 17-year-old daughter and I can tell you that I work in the legal field and any Court document that I am required to draft calls for the use of TWO spaces after a period!!! I took a keyboarding class, in the past two years, and I got 100% (over 100 WPM with no errors) and I was required to use two spaces after a period and after a colon. TWO spaces after a period is DEFINITELY correct! I don’t know who came up with this one space rule, but it is absolutely incorrect!!! As you can see from this post, not only is it correct, but it is also far more appealing to the eye!!!! Well, looking at the actual post below this preview, it appears they only insert the ONE space, which actually infuriates me! This is not the way I would want this post to be presented. However, since I do not have a say in the matter, just know that I am typing this with TWO spaces after the periods!!!!!

Strauss's avatar

Two was considered standard when typing was done on a typewriter. The digital standard seems to be one.

yekralam's avatar

Andrew nailed it. It’s all about proportional fonts. The reason woodardfamily4 still uses it is because legal documents are almost always in courier, a monospaced font. That doesn’t make it correct for a proportional font. I just finished graduate school and if you used 2 spaces after a sentence in an paper using a proportional font you got dinged for it. And this was a communications degree, so they know the style manuals inside out.

Anaphase's avatar

I have never, ever, heard of using two spaces after periods.

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