Should You Double Space After A Period?

Should You Double Space After A Period?

Sentence spacing is what occurs between sentences – how many spaces are added. It doesn’t have to be between a period and the next sentence; it could be any punctuation – a question mark, exclamation mark, etc. It is important to note that, while there is some controversy on the subject, the correct amount of spacing is just one space between sentences. Do not double space after a period.

How Double Spacing Evolved

Adding two spacing after punctuation evolved from the use of a typewriter. Two spaces just became the norm, but why? Well, history shows that the extra space was necessary when using a typewriter to delineate the start of a new sentence because the space between words was actually uneven on the typewriter.

Those who use two spaces on a computer today probably are doing so because they were taught by someone who learned to type on a typewriter. Every space that was given on typewriters had the same spacing; this is called monospaced font/typesetting.

Today, word processing software programs use proportional fonts that are evenly spaced apart. This is called proportional typesetting. When using word processing software programs like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, there’s no need for more than a single space after the punctuation; these tools automatically space the sentence for you.

If you use two spaces after a period, there’s a good chance that your type will look distorted and uneven.

What Does History Say About Sentence Spacing?

History shows that before the 20th century, double-spacing after punctuation was the norm. Printers and typewriters in the 19th century used two spaces between sentences to illustrate the style used in traditional typesetters. Even though the practice was eventually phased out, it was still used on typewriters and computers, causing wide spacing.

Starting around 1950, single sentence spacing became the norm in newspapers, books, and magazines. The majority of style guides agreed on the use of single spacing after the punctuation of a sentence, but there are still sources today who teach double spacing as being correct or acceptable. There is a great space debate among some teachers and designers.

When the computer age came along, many typographers began single spacing after punctuation, even in monospaced text. In 1989, Desktop Publishing by Design declared single sentence spacing to be the new typographic convention. Many other sources over the years agreed that uniform spacing must be used between words and sentences.

During the computer era, many software companies created computer-based word processors or typesetting software programs that allowed the user to create the spacing as he or she wished but most automatically fixed the additional space if it was added to the paragraph in an effort to provide uniform text and improve readability.

In April of 2020, Microsoft Word showed adding two spaces after punctuation to be an error and offered a correction to this of changing it to a single space. Some word processing programs today take double spacing to mean punctuation, so an appropriate punctuation mark is added. However, it should be noted that the spacing is still corrected to only include a single space between sentences.

When writing on the internet, multiple spaces are often eliminated by default, even if they were meant to be that way by the author. There are, of course, options to change this if an author wishes to have two spaces after a period. These are found in the settings of the program the user is working on.

The Controversy And Correct Practice Of Spacing

It may be a controversial subject to some still today. Some people think the additional space after a period gives the reader a “pause signal,” but it really is unnecessary since the punctuation mark is the “pausing signal” for the reader. There are some professors out there who teach the practice of double spacing after a period because that’s how they were taught.

Today, it is still often confused among those who are new to the design world. However, double-spacing between sentences is now thought to be absolutely, unequivocally wrong! The Complete Manual on Typography from 2003 states:

“The typewriter tradition of separating sentences with two-word spaces after a period has no place in typesetting, and the single space is standard typographic practice.”

Many other authors agree with this practice, explaining that unlearning the old double spacing is the most beneficial way to improve readability. So, why is there a controversy on the subject if most educated authors agree on the way sentence spacing should be?

When looking at the legibility and readability of both arguments, there are pros and cons. Those who support single spacing explain that readers are used to seeing a single space between sentences since most literature was created in this manner. Most websites, books, magazines, and newspapers use single spacing, so it is most familiar.

However, there is more to it than that. Adding a double space looks weird in text, especially when using a unique font. The “rivers” and “holes” impair readability. So, why would anyone choose to confuse the reader by adding an additional space after the period, question mark, semi-colon, or exclamation mark?

Those who do want to have the additional space between sentences explain that readability is enhanced by showing clearer breaks between sentences. This creates text that is clearer and more legible. This is especially evident when looking at the dot given by a period and the slash given by a comma. These are more distinguishable with a double space.

Although there are some valid points on this side of the coin, readability trumps the effectiveness of reading, according to one scientific study. In one study done in 2018, it was found that readability results were mixed. Double spacing may improve reading speed a little bit, but it impairs readability and causes unnecessary distractions that outweigh the speed of reading.

Typographers show no studies or any other evidence that readability is improved by double spacing, according to Slate. It’s further explained that double spacing is just plain “ugly.” Having a single space is just cleaner, clearer, simpler, and more visually pleasing, not to mention that it’s less work. When you have a page with single spacing, it just looks normal.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) nor AP or any other style recommends using more than one space after a punctuation mark. CMOS actually explains that typists once were using the space bar to mimic the publishing standards of their time. However, the publication goes on to explain that using an extra space between sentences makes no sense.

The Write Life explains that you are free to use whatever style you wish when publishing your own material, but most publishers and editors will want you to use single spacing with your writing. Using two spaces is argued to be the wrong choice, though, even though sentence spacing in typography is ever-changing in respect to grammar and style.

It’s crucial that you reach your audience, though. I mean, that is your goal, after all, right? You should be able to improve the readability and style of your type by using single spacing between sentences. There is no reason for the double space.

While some people still believe double spacing improves readability and is just more comfortable, it is, in fact, wrong.

Many people believe the way they learned to type is how things should be. Therefore, they teach students to type two spaces after punctuation. Some people just prefer the extra space and want to have two spaces after a period, but it can have negative effects on type and readability.

What Are The Negative Effects Of Double Spacing?

Type can be letterspaced and wordspaced to produce normal, too loose, or too tight of type. Of course, which type you select is up to you, but you should keep the readability of the target audience in mind when considering which letterspacing and wordspacing to use.

When type runs together or is too far apart, it affects one’s readability; you forget about what you are reading and instead, are distracted by the way the text looks. Proper word and sentence spacing are imperative for readability and appearance. You want your text to appear orderly with an optimal amount of white space between paragraphs and sentences.

If your words are spaced too close together and look too tight, it makes it hard to tell one word from another. Likewise, if words are placed too far away from one another, it creates “rivers” on the page, a vertical emphasis that disrupts your eye’s movements when reading from left to right. Therefore, you want to have your words to have optimal spacing.

To Sum It All Up

Do you know anyone who thinks that a double space at the beginning of a sentence is correct? Are you supposed to double space after a period? What is your opinion after reading this article?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experience, or opinions on the subject. Please leave a comment, and don’t forget to share this article with other designers who could benefit from it!


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Should You Double Space After A Period?

Should You Double Space After A Period?

Sentence spacing is what occurs between sentences – how many spaces are added. It doesn’t have to be between a period and the next sentence; ...
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