Please Stop Putting Two Spaces After a Period
It's a leftover practice from manual typewriters, writes Farhad Manjoo
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jan 16, 2011 1:00 PM CST
One space after a period does nicely, thank you.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Despite what countless people seem to think, it’s “totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong” to use two spaces after a period, writes Farhad Manjoo in Slate. It’s been the case since the early 20th century, but you wouldn't know it based on his readers ("In editing letters for my occasional tech-advice column, I've removed enough extra spaces to fill my forthcoming volume of melancholy epic poetry, The Emptiness Within") or his friends: When he asked a dinner party group consisting of doctors and computer programmers, "Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces." When he told them they were doing it wrong, they had one big question: Says who?

In one word: Typographers. It's a "canonical" rule of the profession, "in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork." So why do we insert spaces to our heart's delight? Blame manual typewriters, which used monospaced type—each letter was afforded the same amount of space. On those machines, two spaces after a period made things more readable. But nearly every font on the modern PC is proportional: an "I" gets less space than an "N," for example. Now, "adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it."

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Showing 3 of 87 comments
BrianW
Jan 24, 2011 11:17 AM CST
Here are some facts. When web browsers are fed HTML text, they are programmed to collapse strings of multiple word spaces into a single one when the text is rendered on screen. But the developers of web publishing software like WordPress and Drupal have decided to honor all the spaces that people type. They do it by replacing some of the ordinary space characters with encoded characters that display as spaces but are exempt from the browsers' rule about single spaces. So one technical solution is undone by another. The new cold war! Now opinion. The double-spacers here are rationalizing their typing habits, or at least claiming that Sister Mary made them do it. I don't believe anyone has ever even thought to write to Penguin or Knopf or the New York Times to complain about their single spaces after periods. So it doesn't matter. But I'm with Farhad Manjoo.
Richard South
Jan 18, 2011 11:17 AM CST
When writing you leave a bigger space after a full stop (period) than you do after a comma so the two space rule is valid. It looks neater and breaks up the text and actually shows that you have to pause rather than the one space.
Gen. William T. Sherman
Jan 17, 2011 1:59 PM CST
It's hilarious to see all these trained monkeys trying to defend their outdated practice by insisting that "its the way Ah wuz tawt". Sorry, that's not an argument. And have you noticed that these apes are attacking Manjoo of all people, name-calling and such. It's not Manjoo's fault that you're wrong. Don't attack the messenger.