How many spaces do you put after a period when you’re writing?
If you said any answer besides “one, of course,” you’re writing incorrectly and I’m about to tell you why. It’s time we put this debate to bed.
I’m also very aware that this post will ruffle many feathers, so if you can’t handle something you’ve believed for a majority of your life being brought into question and you don’t have the capacity to view this with an open mind, then may I suggest reading a less threatening, but equally as helpful post.
Don’t get me wrong, I know this can be a tough pill to swallow. I grew up being taught that you always used an Oxford Comma and always put two spaces after a period, no matter what. Period.
The problem with this line of thinking though is that it is based on principles put in place during the age of the typewriter, many many centuries after the art of writing was established.
Doing a modicum of research on the issue and talking to any typographer will clear up the issue pretty quickly, but since most people don’t do that (or don’t know any typographers), let’s look into the reasoning behind the two spaces rule and why it’s no longer necessary or correct.
The problem began after the typewriter began to be the main device driving the written word.
Typewriters, if you didn’t know, used monospaced type, meaning that every character, no matter what, took up the same amount of space on the page. So, for instance, an “I” would take up the same space on a page as an “M.” The problem this created was laying out pages in HUGE blocks of basically unreadable copy.
The human mind is used to seeing a discernible space after a sentence or thought to let our brains know to rest. When all characters take up the same amount of space, there is no way to distinguish sentence from sentence.
Introducing: the two space rule
In order to fix the issue of the Copy Block of Death, typographers decided to add an extra space after the period to tell the eye and brain to pause a second. Problem solved.
Enter: the computer and modern word processy thingies
Seriously, this stopped being a problem in the 70s. Electric typewriters and computers introduced proportional fonts and therefore negated the need for the double-space rule.
Taking it even a bit further, most modern word processors automatically add a minute space after every period, so when you’re sticking the old ways, you’re basically adding 2.35 spaces after the period, and that’s just stupid.
A lot of people will say this post is arbitrary and unnecessary because spacing after a period is basically up to the writer and especially in blogs we should be able to write however we want, right?
If that’s the case, why don’t we start putting 7 spaces after a period. Or how about 17? Why wouldn’t be just space things out so there’s NO WAY someone could mistake two thoughts as the same one. Isn’t it up to the writers’ discretion how they space? What about no spaces at all.Justassumethatallpeoplecanreadyourwritinganddon’tneedyourpunctuationhelp.
ALL writing standards are arbitrary, but we use them to create a standard of writing so all people can read and understand your meaning with the least amount of cognitive effort going to trying to factor out your writing style.
A lot of people will say that I’m taking this too far and that adding the extra space after a period doesn’t do any damage to readability, but if you look at the research from typographers, they all agree that the extra white space not only doesn’t enhance readability, it actually diminishes it.
Why would you make things harder on your readers? Sadist.
Now, if you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s a few more sources that agree with me:
- The Complete Manual of Typography
- Modern Language Association Style Manual
- The Chicago Manual of Style
- APA Style Manual
- and a slew of blogs
Is it hard to hear this or have you heard it before? It’s a tough habit to break, I know because it took me about 2 weeks of diligent effort to break my bad habit. I’m just happy I could bring more people into the light and bring this issue out into the open.
Do you agree or do you think I’m full of crap.