How many spaces after a period when typing? Added on Thursday, February 8, 2007
One Space or Two Spaces After a Period (full stop )?
Hi, this is a bit of a controversial topic with strong opinions on both side. At present (modern style) one space is correct and taught most often now. However two spaces look good (especially on the Web.) Although we presently use one space in our testing, soon either one space OR two spaces will be marked correctly.
Here are some various opinions..
Insert only a single space after all punctuation.
If you grew up prior to the advent of desktop publishing, chances are you were taught to put two spaces after periods, question marks, exclamation marks, and colons. The rationale was that it is easier for the eye to distinguish sentences in this fashion. When using monospaced fonts (read: typewriter fonts), there might be some validity to this. But this only applied to documents created with a typewriter. Since the advent of the printing press in the 15th century, typesetters have never inserted two spaces after punctuation.
As far as I can work out, the practice of inserting two spaces between sentences originated with high school typing teachers. It sure didn’t originate in the world of typography. I’ve heard the technique referred to as the “French method,” and despite their admiration for Jerry Lewis, I doubt even the French would adopt such a method. When preparing text for printing, regardless of the font, use only one space after all punctuation. There are no exceptions to this.
Well, except one. While not necessary, it is acceptable and often more readable when composing e-mail (text that will be read online and not printed) to insert two spaces after periods, question and exclamation marks, and colons.
How many spaces should there be after a period ("full stop")?
If you've sat through a typing class or two with an instructor holding a ruler over your knuckles to make sure your fingers are in the exactly correct position, your answer will be "TWO!" If you haven't, your answer probably will be "ONE!"
There is a true controversy raging over the correct number of spaces after a period (and also a colon). Modern typesetters creating documents that will be published primarily use one space. In the world of professional printing, typefaces are well-designed with professionally-tweaked kerning that should not require that extra space after a period. In those instances, the period itself is given a comfortable amount of space for the characters following it to fall in their place. However, on an old-fashioned typewriter, text was printed with a fixed-width typeface. Fixed-width typefaces do not aid a reader when presented with a block of text. We are familiar with this look with Courier, a font we see quite often these days. This lack of kerning after a period or a colon created the need to insert that extra space as a clue that the end of a sentence was coming. Most people see ahead of where they are reading, and such cues are important to maintain flow. For example, consider the difference between these two blocks of text:
Modern typesetters would put only one space after the period in this sentence, like this. But is it easier to read than a block of text with two spaces after the period? I'm not sure. What do you think? What about the readability of a sentence like this: "...wondering whether it was available in the U.K. Smith decided the following measure should be used...."
A typing teacher would say that two spaces are required after the period in this sentence, like this. Is this easier to read than the block of text above? What do you think? What about the readability of a sentence like this: "...wondering whether it was available in the U.K. Smith decided the following measure should be used...."
Modern versus traditional? Which way to go? It's a close call, but I think it is easier to read a block of text, especially on the internet, with two spaces after the period. And that's why the typing test on this site requires two spaces instead of one.
Spacing after full stop
In typewritten texts and other documents printed in fixed-width fonts, there is a convention among lay writers that two spaces are placed after the full stop (along with the other sentence enders, question marks and exclamation marks ), as opposed to the single space used after other punctuation symbols. This is sometimes termed "French spacing".
In modern English-language typographical usage, debate has arisen concerning the proper number of trailing spaces after a full stop (or exclamation mark, or question mark) to separate sentences within a paragraph. Whereas two spaces are still regarded by many outside the publishing industry to be the better usage for monospace typefaces, the awkwardness that most word-processing applications have in representing correctly the 1.5 spaces that had previously become standard for typographically proportional (non-monospace) fonts has led to some confusion about how to render the space between sentences using only word-processing tools.
Many descriptivists (i.e. people who describe how language is used in practice) support the notion that a single space after a full stop should be considered standard because it has been the norm in mainstream publishing for many decades. This also includes the MLA, APA, and the CMS. Many prescriptivists (i.e. people who make recommendations for rules of language use), meanwhile, adhere to the earlier use of two spaces on typewriters to make the separation of sentences more salient than separation of elements within sentences. Some, however, accept that in modern word-processing the single space is better because two spaces may stretch inordinately when full justification is applied. Additionally, many computer typefaces are designed proportionately to alleviate the need for the double space (the opposition would of course reply that this does nothing to satisfy the aforementioned saliency issue). Most modern typesetters, designers, and desktop publishers use only one space after a period, as do most mainstream publishers of books and journals.
With the advent of standardized HTML for rendering webpages, the broader distinction between full stop spacing and internal spacing in a sentence has become largely moot on the World Wide Web. Standardized HTML treats additional whitespace after the first space as immaterial (siding unquestioningly with the one-spacers), and ignores it when rendering the page. A common workaround for this is the use of (Non-breaking space) to represent extra spaces, and is done automatically by some WYSIWYG editors.
A strong argument for having two spaces after a full stop arises from accessibility, or universal design. It is often reported that people with dyslexia prefer double spacing after a full stop.