Killing the Second Space after a Period

Setting in Microsoft Word 2010ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a very well researched article refuting the Slate article: Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong

UPDATE: Nearly two years ago I made the switch from two spaces after a period, to one space. It was not easy, and it took a long time, but its finally reached the point where it feels natural and I don’t think about it. I thought I’d bring this blog post up to the top to, I suppose, commemorate this feat.

About an hour ago I finished reading an article on Slate called “Space Invaders” that calls for the death of the second space after a period.

It pissed me off and I wanted to write a scathing rebuttal, but thought – no, someone in the comments must have beaten me to it.  Everyone in publishing knows that there are two spaces after a period.  It’s standard form.  Strunk and White said so.  Right?

Wrong.  I’m glad I checked.  No one brought up an example from The Elements of Style in the comments that showed proper spacing after a period, and so I had to go and look myself.  I went through the book front to back and came up empty handed.  So I consulted my other handy writing guidebook, the Yahoo Style Guide for online writing.

Nothing.  I have nothing to back me up, but Farhad Manjoo – the author of the Slate article – has plenty to back him up.  And so I am wrong.

This sucks.  First my astrological sign changed (apparently I’m no longer a Scorpio) and now I find that everything I’ve ever typed is wrong?

Including this article?

Apparently.

So I thought, and thought, and thunk and thunk, kind of like Winnie the Pooh wandering back and forth trying to remember where his secret stash of honey is, and finally came up with where I learned the golden rule of “two spaces after a period.”

1974.  Webster Junior High School.  Typing class.

Oddly enough this came to my attention a few weeks ago, because I’d noticed that on one of my websites if a line breaks at the end of a sentence, the next line has an errant indent from the second space.  I’d assumed a problem in the formatting, but now I have to come to accept that the problem is not with the website template.  The problem is that I’m using typewriter rules in a world where typewriters all sit unused behind glass museum displays.

This is going to be hard.  Over 35 years of touch-typing reflex tells my thumb to bounce twice on the space bar after touching the period button.  Like just now.  And here too.

The funny thing is that if I type a period in Microsoft Word and follow it with only one space, Microsoft helpfully puts a squiggly underline below it to remind me to add the second one.  I found the setting in Word – it defaults to two spaces.

With some sadness I set it to one.

5 thoughts on “Killing the Second Space after a Period

  1. LordByron IL

    You and I went to the ‘same’ typing classes, I guess. It took me years to learn to NOT hit the space bar a second time online. I think I have a typewriter here somewhere in a closet in a back room.
    Thanks for the good observation and a chance to smile “Ah-hah”

  2. Bobbin

    You aren’t alone, Jerry. Anyone who learned to type before “keyboarding” came along does this. I still like the division between the sentences, it gives me a chance to complete one concept or thought before I start the next one. See, isn’t this easier to read? I like to have a little space. The other reads to me like one giant run-on sentence.

  3. Katharine Swan

    Actually, the author of that article had very little to back him up. Read this article instead:

    http://www.heracliteanriver.com/?p=324

    Now THAT is a well-researched article. And it’s true, too — I am an amateur book collector, and all the old books on my shelves have long spaces between sentences. Two spaces was taught to typing students because it mimicked the printing standards that had been in place for a couple hundred years when typewriters were invented.

  4. Jerry Post author

    Thank you Katharine Swan for that link! I wish I’d read that back before I’d spent all the time and effort to retrain myself to the damn single space.

  5. Erik Deckers

    Jerry, as a consummate one-spacer, I am pleased that you have seen the light. But you have my sympathy for having lost something so dear.

    I also own a typewriter, which I use occasionally. Then, I have to remember to put two spaces after a period, which is actually difficult now.

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