Don’t You Dare Double Space After a Period!

Don’t You Dare Double Space After a Period!

Writing WorkshopAre you still double spacing after you end a sentence? Well, stop! All of the style guides The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook, and the Modern Language Association (MLA) except for the American Psychological Association want you to space only once after you end a sentence. I know, I know, it may be really hard to break the habit of hitting the space bar twice, but you’re still not listening to 8 Tracks today, right?  

 

Why the Change?

 

You might be wondering how you didn’t get the one-spacing memo. Since word processors came into being in the late 70s/80s, spacing only once after a sentence has become the norm. This is because typewriters monospaced all of the characters, so that an “i” took up the same space as an “m.” Computers use proportional spacing so each character is adjusted for the space and double spacing after periods became an extra unnecessary step. In addition, newspapers frowned on having all of that wasted space in columns which could become valuable ad dollars. When I took typing back in the late 80s, I was taught to double space after periods and colons—it took me awhile to change my old habits, but I know you can do it like I did!

 

But Don’t Two Spaces Look Better?  

Not really. Two spaces make the document “holey” and disjointed. It DOES NOT make it easier for someone to read your work  or does it help the reader know you ended your sentence. As an editor, my eyes go directly to the double spaces and then I start hyperventilating, wondering how many spaces I’ll need to correct. When I edit manuscripts, I get so excited when I don’t need to correct the spacing issue—yay, someone got it!

 

What if You Don’t Want to Change Your Double-Spacing Ways?

My, aren’t we stubborn? Well, you can stick it to the Man by double spacing in your emails, drafts and letters. Just don’t double space when you’re sending off that email to your future agent, editor or publisher. 

Bottom line: please save the spaces! It only takes a small change to make a big difference!

Fixing The Two Space Issue

Once you’re in a document, go to your Review Tab in Word 2007, select Spelling & Grammar on the far left, then hit “Options,” then at the Dialog Box, select “Grammar Only” and hit the “Settings” tab, where you’ll see the option for “Spaces Required Between Sentences” and hit “1.” Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, right?

 

Your Turn:

 

Are you a single spacer or a double spacer?  How do you feel now after reading this post?

 

Posted in: Writing

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11 Comments

  1. DougInNC September 4, 2013

    How do I feel after a double-space lecture? I feel “spaced out,” of course. I also feel your agony, Alice, and have converted to single spaces 99% of the time in my writing since I first heard your call to action on this topic about a year ago. It was hard at first; now I get it.

  2. Brian McDonald (@bmcd67) September 4, 2013

    I’m a double spacer and yes I learned it when taking typing class. But when I started doing desktop publishing in the early 90s after the 8-track and cassette tapes died, I found another reason. The double space gives your eye and brain a signal that the sentence has ended and so has the thought it communicates. I don’t see why everyone has such a hard time with this and I don’t think it makes your copy look “holey.” But that’s my 2 cents. Agree with your reasoning on computers however it depends on how the content is laid out, font, etc. as to how much spacing. For example the period at the end of the abbreviation “etc.” is the same as the space at the end of the sentence. They look the same and the end of the sentence should be different than periods used for other purposes.

  3. slewriter September 4, 2013

    Hi Alice~
    As usual you blogs are informative. I learned how to type in the early 60’s.Yup, all the rat-a-tap occured in the classroom while the typing instructor listened to us hit the shifter, (I think this was the name of it.) I took office machines in summer school on a new contraption called the electric typewriter where the arms would jam up on top of each other. In the 70’s i typed for IBM on a Mag Card I and II. I, also learned to type on a Vy DiK. A typewriter with a screen. The computer I learned about sat in a huge room, and I typed in coumpter language from a manual.

    The reason for my giving you this information is I have almost ingrained in me to add two spaces after the period. Can you teach an older woman new things? Yes, you betcha. I need to concentrate on what I’m typing, and I’ll unlearn what I learned. Then, I’ll learn what is the trend.

    Thank you for sharing. I’m wondering if we are suppose to double space after a paragraph. This learves a lot of empty space as well.

  4. Beth Browne September 4, 2013

    Wow, great article! You’re right, it’s a tough habit to break. I appreciate the suggestion about using Word, will have to try that. I’ve been using “replace” to find the double spaces and replace them with singles. Is there some way to change the default in Word? Thanks for a great article!!

  5. Sherri English September 5, 2013

    With the advent of the computer age, typographers began deprecating double spacing, even in monospaced text. In 1989, Desktop Publishing by Design stated that ” typesetting requires only one space after periods, question marks, exclamation points, and colons”, and identified single sentence spacing as a typographic convention.

  6. Fran September 5, 2013

    I learned to type many years ago, and it is nearly impossible for me to single space after a period. I really don’t like this change, either. However, if I’m writing something for an editor, when finished, I let my computer go back and replace all the period-space-spaces with period-spaces. That is the win-win I use.

  7. Alice Osborn September 10, 2013

    Thanks to all of your for your fantastic comments on this post–it sure stirred up a lot of conversation! Keep reading my blog–I post something new every Wednesday! Alice

  8. Olga Santo Tomás Monroe September 11, 2013

    This is very helpful for writers of this age! Thank you & please continue to keep us abreast of the adaptions from our ‘typing classes’ to 2013!

  9. Elaine Bayless September 11, 2013

    Haha, i wondered if my mom would reply! She and I had this conversation when we first started co-writing our book. I sympathize – I learned to type in the 80’s, but I was still taught to double space after periods. It was a very hard habit to break. I think I finally broke the habit when I was in grad school and my professors required single spaces after periods. Although I would’ve appreciated being able to “pad” the length of all those term papers!

  10. Mark October 23, 2013

    I review a lot of technical report written by “older engineers”…this drives me NUTS!!!! I simply do a search and replace. Search for 2 spaces and replace with 1. Works like a charm. I leave track changes on and send it back to make my point.

    • Mark October 24, 2013

      I thought this was a blog to share experiences and thoughts…didn’t realized I would be ATTACKED FOR IT!!!!!!!

      Besides, APA is not the appropriate format for technical reports. Double spacing looks horrendous in technical reports. Just a fact.

      Finally, majority is what eventually changes standards. APA needs to get with the program.

      Gee….