How Many Spaces After A Period?

January 24, 2011 | 3

According to Slate: “Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.”

is an associate editor for The Millions. She works for the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NY Chapter of the ACLU. She was formerly a writer for The Atlantic's news website The Wire, and a co-editor of NY media blog FishbowlNY. Her writing has appeared in The Millions, TheAtlantic.com, Newsday, National Journal, The Rumpus, and elsewhere, and is partly collected at her website, TheCivilWriter.com. Follow @ujalasehgal.

3 comments:

  1. Some of us knew that sooner than others. Old habits die hard, especially ones for which the practitioners cannot give a good justification, likely since they’ve never considered their automatic and unconsidered adherence.

  2. Well… not quite “totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably.” The “two spaces” rule was adopted with the advent of the typewriter. It helped, along with various punctuation marks, to set off the end of one sentence from the beginning of the next as a reader scanned the words. This was needed because typewriters for decades created what’s called “monospaced” printing. Each character occupied the same amount of space on the line. Most of the time, that was either 1/10 or 1/12 of an inch. This was unnatural for the reader. Hand writing is not monospaced, nor is type that is set for books and magazines, where the rule is one space between sentences.

    Nowadays, though, many people’s printed words are in typefaces that use what’s called “proportional” spacing (this blog is one of them), so, in those cases, one space is correct. However, if you are certain that your words will be sent out to the world in monospaced type (and there are still a few places like that out there, even on the web), then using two spaces would not be inappropriate. After all, anything that makes it easier for the reader to read your words is a good thing.

    I mean, that’s the point, isn’t it?

  3. Peter, that’s precisely right! Perfect.

    I can’t believe how much coverage this silly Slate article has gotten. It’s the same sort of prideful ignorance, bolstered by selective citation, that it’s supposedly dethroning.

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