Well, a couple of days ago I was typesetting a letter from someone. He was actually a person of some importance to the local community. While I was already annoyed because I had to keep not only the indent on every first line of each paragraph, but also a space between paragraphs, my eye suddenly fell into a big hole in the middle of a block of text.
I thought to myself “Oh well, this person is a double spacer… actually, I am wrong…” I put my cursor in the gap and pressed Cancel one, two, three, four times…
I have used both, and I still find that people have to work at finding the end and start of sentences within a paragraph when only one space is used. Only one space is used between individual words, between numbers, and after a comma; all within a sentence. I feel something more is needed to set apart sentences. With two spaces there is less confusion to the reader, and I believe that is one of our goals.
Comment by Richard DeCowsky — June 6, 2006 @ 7:16 am
When I’m doing research of any kind, I tend to skim text rather than read it. So, I read most of the first sentence of a paragraph, and then just the first few words of each following paragraph. Just enough to figure out whether that section has anything relevant.
When there are two spaces between sentences, it’s much easier to skim through the paragraph. Yes, there’s “trapped white space”, but that white space is what allows you to easily skip to the start of the next sentence. It’s an important visual guide.
So, while I agree that one space looks better than two from a page layout standpoint (where you’re worried about pretty and clean), two spaces is much easier to read, especially if you’re in a hurry. I vote for useability over pretty.
I’m floored! All my life I’ve used two spaces after a sentence, and it’ll be soooo hard to break that habit, but…I will work at it. I notice that I have not begun to break it, yet. There, smile, my first OLD rule, broken…on to a new life…
I just tried typing some text into Word with single and double spaces. The double spaced-text looked TERRIBLE. Maybe I’m used to single spaces, but so are probably most people.
Comment by Jacek Dobrzyniecki — October 10, 2006 @ 3:18 pm
I found it very funny that the author used two hyphens instead of a dash in an article commenting on old habits left over from typewriter-days. On the subject, I greatly prefer a wider gap beween sentences than between words, for many of the reasons listed above. I don’t agree that the convention is solely because of typewriters. Just as with dashes and hyphens, two spaces were used to immitate that which was already occurring elsewhere.
Hi alex. I’m that author who “used two hyphens instead of a dash in an article commenting on old habits left over from typewriter-days.” The reason for this is mostly due to the behind-the-scenes tools we have to work with for publishing our pages online. The tools like to cause havoc when re-editing pages that contain “special characters” (proper en and em dashes being part of them) so unless I absolutely have to — such as in an article specifically about dashes — I use the quick and dirty double hyphen. For the same reasons I don’t use typographically correct apostrophes and curly quotes for most articles either. Of course I would do so when typesetting material for PRINT but not for these online articles, comments, or in email.
What nobody is either realizing, or considering, is line leading as it relates to overall readability, and comprehension of the printed words. The more leading, relative to line length, increases the white “relief” space for the reader. If that leading is to tight, the extra space between sentences can indeed be visually troublesome. However, If the appropriate leading is used, that extra space between sentence makes readability much easier.
After so many years of having “two-spaces” pounded into my head, I would agree that it is definitely a habit, however it also looks a lot better than just one space. When using just one space it can at times almost seem as though the sentences are running together. Two spaces allows that slight break between the sentences and looks a lot cleaner.
I’ve always used double space. After debating this issue with colleagues I decided to play around with single space / double space sentences. I’ve concluded that it depends a lot on the font. Times New Roman looks a little better with singe spaces. Arial, on the other hand, looks better double spaced—especially if it’s bolded. Even after reviewing this issue I think (generally speaking) double space looks cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing. In a related topic, I’ve been using double spaces between the City, State, Zip code for years—it just improves readability. Some other counties must also agree because it’s mandatory.
I think that it’s easier to read sentences with two spaces between them. The variable font doesn’t help in separating the sentences and the period isn’t enough. The white space encourages the reader to pause between sentences to comprehend the idea of one sentence before moving on to the next. You can really see what white space does when you read text that is right justified; it leaves white spaces in an arbitrary pattern which make the sentences and ideas choppy. The white spaces should enhance the ideas being presented, not hinder their comprehension.
Comment by Devon Cattell — February 15, 2007 @ 9:22 pm
It amazes me how many people would rather be wrong than be corrected.
After reading the two samples of one-space vs. two-spaces, I am reassured that the two-space spread between sentences is far more easily and more comfortablly read. The white space between sentences that drew a comment may offend the sensibilities of the graphic designer, but it serves as a cue to the average reader that one independent clause/thought/sentence is ending and the next is coming. Additionally, the white space is a brief moment of “silence,” which all of us need in our lives that are otherwise bombarded with constant noise and instant gratification.
I agree with LES. It troubles me that so many “improvements” are made simply to accommodate those who can’t be bothered to do things correctly. (Remember “alright” becoming an accepted spelling simply because so much of our uneducated populace can’t or won’t use the correct “all right”?). After all, isn’t this writing being done for the purpose of actually being READ, rather than just to look pretty on the page? Neither do I think using one space in some type of documents and two in others is a good idea, as that will just muddy the waters. Two spaces in everything. Period.
With monospaced text, as on a typewriter, a space is the same size as any other character. With proportional text the space and the period are very much smaller than other characters. On a typewriter, the space was big enough to give a clear separation at the end of a sentence. However, in proportional text the space is much smaller. A double space between sentences makes it much easier to read. I have noticed that most text is published with proportional characters and only a single space at the end of sentences. Just because most people (and the professionals) do it that way, is a sad excuse for continuing a practice that makes it harder to read. It is especially confusing in writing that involves many acronyms or abbreviations where periods and capital letters appear throughout sentences. When using proportional fonts, it is much clearer to use two spaces at the end of a sentence.
I have to say that the One or two space rule depends on the nature of the writing. Sometimes two spaces may be necessary to additional clarification to the writing. I think generally 1 space, but use two spaces where needed.
Unprofessional? That’s a silly thing to say. Many people find it significantly more difficult to read long documents that use single-spacing between sentences. The proportional-font justification doesn’t make sense when examined. The amount of space between words is the same as the amount of space between a period and its successive word, making the amount of spacing the same as one would see with a typewriter. The amount of space used by characters is less, but how does that make the amount of spacing between words less significant? Yes, you can fit more words into the same space, but the intent and purpose of punctuation is to make those many words more easily and accurately interpreted and communicated. If all you were concerned with was words-per-area, you’d fist want to just drop all of the commas. Why do you need commas, afterall? You need them to help insert separations and pauses. Periods are so small with proportional fonts, that they are difficult to find in a long paragraph. Give the period some help and add an extra space to point it out better!
Why do I care? It interferes with my ability read long documents fast by scanning sentence-by-sentence. I try to get a single meaning for each sentence and scan rapidly to the next sentence unit. I scan and read in units of sentences, and when I cannot easily delimit the visual unit of a sentence, my eyes have to work harder to find out where that little period is. I don’t have a problem with question marks, becase they are so much more distinguishable.
In the end, you are producing text that is more crowded and less easily read when the reader is scanning rapidly. If that is your goal, to disregard the “scanning” reader’s needs, then go ahead. Just don’t call it a matter of being more “professional.”
Comment by John Beaufait — September 19, 2007 @ 3:13 pm
Functionality all the way: two spaces please!
Comment by IamaWaSoG — November 22, 2007 @ 8:49 pm
This really shouldn’t be an issue anymore. Putting 2 spaces between sentences has only ever been acceptable for MONOSPACED TYPEFACES, such as courier. But now we have proportionally spaced typefaces, such as Times New Roman and Helvetica, and this is what is used in professionally printed publications, such as newspapers, magazines & books, or even websites.
And I don’t like the excuse of using 2-spaces when writing an email. First of all, HTML will only display one sentence to matter how many were typed. And secondly, most all email programs have proportionally spaced typefaces as their default display font. And on another note, all websites designed in HTML, and not a WYSIWYG editor, will delete that second space anyway… as you can see, the comments from 2-space-lovers above only have 1 space between sentences… I bet they didn’t even notice, and if they did, they should be embarrassed!
…And if you still need more reaons, then here’s some professional books/documents telling you to STOP putting 2 spaces between sentences: The Chicago Manual of Style 2.12 (15th ed. 2003) says “A single character space, not two spaces, should be left after periods at the ends of sentences (both in manuscript and in final, published form) and after colons.” The Associated Press Stylebook (2004) also calls for one space.
I am floored. I looked up this article to find something to show a friend who still insists on double-spacing after periods. OK, so I am a graphic designer. But I am also a reader, and reading anything with double spaces drives me crazy. It most definitely hinders comprehension. It’s like going for a hike and having to come to a dead stop every 10 steps. It’s amazing what people will come up with to justify change avoidance.
Could there be a correlation between that old habit and the fact that Americans don’t read books anymore? All books single-space after punctuation, making them too difficult to follow for esteemed company above, it seems…
Media changes the rules of readability to control cost. My recommendations to the Macropaedia w/Britannica consultant and author, Dr. Joseph Lowerys, were based on research showing how typographic change of one point size (reduction) can effect comprehension; tests had to be restandardized to account for the increase in time it took to take the test as well as lower completion rates. Yet, the publisher used a point size smaller than the recommended 10 or 11 pt. type.
We read faster by 1)thought units and 2)re-read to better comprehend. The eye jumps to the beginning of the paragraph when you use “one space” after punctuation instead of quickly locating the beginning of a sentence or two in mid-paragraph.
Software programs have defaults that change what you type. Were the reader comments “for” two-spaces changed by the software editor to the new one-space standard?
I’ll start off by stating that I am a two space guy and that I find it much easier to read. It helps to set off the end and beginning of a new sentence. Yes, capitalization is able to perform this function, but in my line of work, I constantly deal with terms like GL2, bHLH, bZIP, MYC, MYB, AtPAP1, DNA, RNA, etc. Using two spaces helps tremendously.
It also depends upon what one is reading from. A computer monitor and paper are two different mediums and this makes a difference. I believe that whatever simplifies life should be used and using two spaces accounts for reading in poorly lit situations and for varying fonts.
By the way, did it ever occur that using single spaces might have orginated by the computer age and lazy typographers and designers? Think about it, if one needed to make a consistent document would it be easier to perform a find and replace for “dotspacespace” or “dotspace”space ? It would be easier with the first one.
Honestly, I prefer two spaces after a sentence regardless of whether the typeface is monospaced or proportionally spaced. In my opinion, the additional space more sharply marks the transition between sentences and makes it easier to pick out individual sentences when the text is skimmed. I suppose that I don’t find it distracting since it is what I’m used to, but in the end I doubt it that adding or omitting the additional space really makes much of a difference at all.
Also, I feel compelled to add that after looking at the above responses, I think that most people that have commented don’t know enough about the most basic rules of grammar to have their opinion be taken seriously.
Readability in paragraphs of text is improved by having consistent spacing as you read each line. That’s why fully justified text is harder to read than left-justified text, because with full justification, the space between words varies from line to line. This causes the eye to have to readjust to each new line. Left-justified text does not have this problem. Just as tests have shown readability to suffer (even if just slightly) from variable spacing because of full justification, so too readability suffers when using two spaces after punctuation (you may think you like two spaces, but tests have proved it’s actually not more readable).
And for what it’s worth, one space after punctuation was the rule before computers, so it’s not a computer thing. It’s nothing to do with laziness, but everything to do with clean typography. Please go to a library, or even all the books and magazines and newspapers in your own home and actually LOOK at all of them. The vast vast bulk of them use only ONE space, no matter what you may happen to prefer or do by force of habit.
There are really two issues here. One is appearance (design/readability). The other is social or psychological, brought on because of habit. Designers and typographers are overwhelmingly on the side of one space after punctuation — and this is old news. For decades, perhaps even centuries, it’s been standard practice in nearly everything that’s professionally typeset. Look at the overwhelming evidence in your our home and get used to it. That leaves the second issue, that people have a deeply ingrained habit to type two spaces after punctuation (I used to do that myself), and thus people want to defend their habits. That’s natural. Change avoidance, that’s all it is. Anybody can do what they like, but style guides such as Chicago and AP are abundantly clear in stipulating just one space. The vast bulk of material that we read every day has just one space after all punctuation. That is simply the fact. Consequently, if the poll on this page indicates that most people prefer two spaces, it doesn’t carry much weight because those people voting for two spaces have either failed to notice the overwhelming evidence, are trying to justify themselves to avoid change, or are uninformed regarding standard typography.
Is this a religion thing, like Mac vs. PC? I would argue that it isn’t. I would say it’s a matter of being sufficiently informed, and recognizing your own tendency to resist change. Sure, a physical habit such as typing two spaces after punctuation is hard to break, but that difficulty is no justification for keeping the habit when the result is incorrect.
Comment by Michael Dylan Welch — January 28, 2009 @ 3:33 pm
I will probably always use the two spaces. And yes, I DID notice that all the comments have only one space after sentences. In addition, I feel compelled to note that many of the people commenting are unable to spell as well as having little knowledge of basic grammar.
I believe it needs to be noted that when you set type, you should consider your audience. I find when writing technically for geriatrics it is harder for them to read when only a single space is used. I believe also that the use of one space is not some new effect of the available variable set type. Single spacing has grown from a lack of knowledge on how to type in the first place. The use of a double space is for the reader. When using a newspaper, magazine, or any printed material as you reference or example of why you should use one space, recall the fact that it is cost effective to not use a double space. Also do not stand behind the technology (variable width set type or programs which scavenge memory space by scrubbing ‘white’ space) claiming it as your excuse for just not caring, or trying to save money, or just plain not learning correctly in the first place. As readers we have been left with single space as the norm because individuals began using excuses for not typing correctly. I have been trying to read through the comments typed here and find that single space behind periods to be much harder to read. (This comment has been entered with two spaces)
I disagree with the statement that double spaces should be used with term papers. Use whatever style your teacher/instructor directs. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, specifically notes in more than one place – do not use more than one space after each sentence.
A little research results from long ago: there was only one period when an larger space was used after a period. It was a bit of fashion about the 1880′s to use an en-space between sentences and the usual 3-to-em space between words. This is the time typewriters were becoming common. Plus it did help break open the text putting an extra marker for the end of a sentence. Except for that brief period, the usual 3-to-em space has been used after a period in type.
SO, I use one space (also created breaking problems often earlier in word processing) when it is proportional spaced and emulating type. I use two spaces with mono-spaced material or if it is more like word-processing material. I must admit it is harder to remember which is which.
Since I frequently worked in foreign languages and there the rules differ and can make for even more confusion: for example, in French, they prefer to have a space between the quotation mark and the beginning of the sentance. (Of course I mean a guillemote and not “curley quotes.”) and also they prefer a space on either side of a colon, which is used as a em-dash. One needs to learn how to set non-breaking spaces or else one gets the punctuation separated from the sentence. If you think one or two spaces is bad, wait until the punctuation floats to the next line.
The word processing programs have been set up (as all too often the typesetting programs) to work to English standards, but often look poorly in the other great standards (the French/latin, Germanic, and Asian). I keep wondering if in native versions of them, they have the equivalent of “smart quotes,” which is the program that does all those conversions of quotes, dashes and, often, the elimination of double spaces.
Comment by Arden McClure — March 16, 2010 @ 2:46 pm