An Argument Against Using Two Spaces Between Sentences

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An Argument Against Using Two Spaces Between Sentences

Why do different people, professions and even word processing apps have different views on putting one or two spaces between sentences? Because typewriters made the spaces hard to distinguish. But it’s 2010, one writer argues, and time to single-space up.

Farhad Manjoo details the history of the single-versus-double debate at Slate, and makes a compelling argument for sticking to single spaces — and avoiding Courier fonts. Single-spaced sentences were the norm, he writes, up until bad typewriter design crept into mid-20th-century life:

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type-that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule-on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here’s the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.

We’re definitely on Team Single-Space here at Lifehacker. Megan McArdle at The Atlantic makes a compelling argument for her beloved double-space, and now we’re wondering: How do you space, and why?

Two spaces after a period: Why you should never, ever do it. [Slate Magazine]

Comments

  • I learned to type double-space and for that reason only I continue to double-space following a full-stop.

    For someone learning to type I’d probably advocate foregoing the superfluous space, but on a scale of things that matter, I’d give the issue about 1 of 10. (There are bigger “problem’s” out there!)

    My vote is to simply do what you do and be consistent about it.

  • “But it’s 2010, one writer argues…” – Unsuccessfully, I hope.

    I understand the logic of single spaces, I’m finding it very difficult to implemement though.

  • I agree with Tim, it really is an argument that ranks low on my priorities. I double space for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I find that it adheres to a more formal writing style, and when a large portion of my writing is corporate emails, it makes sense to stick with what is accepted. Secondly an additional space also helps to reinforce a pause between sentences, something that isn’t necessarily as obvious from a single space.

    P.S. I find it incredibly ironic that the font used in the text input box to post comments is a Courier font!

  • You’ll probably also notice that regular HTML will not allow you to place double spaces at the end of periods. As I have just tried to demonstrate here. Anyone keen to enter ” ” twice when typing in HTML? 🙂

  • Less that 20 years ago when I learned to type at school. It was drilled into me over many, many lessons. I always double space. Maybe there is not as much need to distinguish from a typographical aspect anymore, but I can not see a reason to stop. And shall be 80 and double spacing and waving my walking stick at the young ones saying “in my day we used to double space – things have gone to the dogs and you just don’t care about the standards of your typing.”

  • Actually many courier fonts do seem to be proportional fonts. Having said that I didn’t start using keyboard devices till the late 80’s, so I’d never even heard of using two spaces. (I always assumed they were just mistakes when I noticed the occasional one turning up in text.

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