If you're old enough to have taken a typing class on an actual typewriter, you may find the internet telling you you're doing it wrong. How many spaces after a period?
Back in the manual typewriter days, you had to do more to make easy-to-read documents. This included adding multiple spaces after each period. But, newer technology eliminated the need for double-space. Learn how the two spaces rule came to be and why the rules changed.
- How Many Spaces After a Period?
- Where Did the Two Space Rule Come From?
- Does Anyone Still Call for Two Spaces?
- Rules for Spacing With Other Punctuation
- Problems with Using Two Spaces
- How to Relearn the New Rule
- The Final Word on How Many Spaces After a Period
- FAQs About How Many Spaces After a Period
How Many Spaces After a Period?
The answer to this question is short and simple: one space.
If you are over 40, chances are that this advice seems confusing. This is likely because you learned how to type on a typewriter instead of in a word processing program.
Like many other stylistic and grammatical rules, the two space rule has been revised as the technology we use has changed and evolved. One space is now correct because proper space after a period happens automatically.
Where Did the Two Space Rule Come From?
On typewriters, two spaces after a period are required and correct. This is because typewriters give every character the same amount of space on the page. This is known as monospace typesetting.
Two spaces after a period increased readability. If you used only one space, you would wind up with sentences that looked cramped and squeezed together. Adding the extra space made it easier to read.
In digital spaces, every input is in proportional fonts. These automatically make the right amount of space, negating the need for the two-space rule.
Does Anyone Still Call for Two Spaces?
Most style guides changed years or decades ago. The last holdout was the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). In their 2019 update, they changed their rule from two spaces to one.
Rules for Spacing With Other Punctuation
Since the spacing rules for periods have changed, are other types of punctuation affected? You'll be pleased to learn that the single space rule applies across the board for stopping punctuation. This group includes exclamation points, periods, and question marks. One space should be used after them all.
The rules for commas, semi-colons, and colons have not changed. They continue to require a single space.
The rules remain the same in a double-spaced document–that is, one with extra space between lines. You will still put a single space after each sentence.
Problems with Using Two Spaces
Many people who were taught two spaces have a hard time giving it up. One commenter on The Chicago Manual of Style Q&A “One Space of Two?” remarked:
“About two spaces after a period. As a US Marine, I know that what’s right is right and you are wrong. I declare it once and for all aesthetically more appealing to have two spaces after a period.”
Still others proposed formal reviews to bring two spaces back, at least as an acceptable alternative. However, CMOS has called for one space since at least their 13th edition. On their website, they call for one space.
Unfortunately, the use of two spaces is no longer correct and can even throw off the appearance of your final document.
Adding two spaces with proportional fonts can look unnatural. This is because proportional fonts automatically adjust the space to fit the characters and the punctuation.
How to Relearn the New Rule
Two spacers may find it hard to switch from automatically tapping the space bar twice to using only adding one at the end of a sentence. Luckily, many applications now either remind users of the error or automatically correct it.
In Microsoft Word, two spaces is now underlined as an error. Facebook strips the second space out when posters use it. So does some of the best typing software.
Because of these cues, people are unlikely to have issues even if they do have trouble switching from one space after a period to two. If you get to the end of a document and realize that you have included two spaces throughout, you can simply do a find and replace to remove two spaces and insert one.
The Final Word on How Many Spaces After a Period
One space is correct. This is the case with all modern text communication, as proportionate fonts automatically add the right amount of spaces.
FAQs About How Many Spaces After a Period
What is the correct number of spaces after a period?
One. Modern text editors automatically create enough space between sentences.
When did two spaces after a period change?
The change was gradual. The first adopters of the one-space rule were European typesetter in the early 20th century.
What is a good way to reduce the number of spaces after a period?
Editing for someone who reflexively adds two spaces? It's easy to fix. Simply do a “find and replace.” Put two spaces in the “find” field” and one in the “replace.”
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