Only one space after period.

The Atlantic Monthly magazine has a feature called “Word Court”, in which readers ask questions about grammar and words. In the curent issue, a reader asked whether there should be one or two spaces after a period and before the next word. Barbara Wallraff, the author, says to use only one:

“put one space between sentences in writing that’s going to be published, whether in print or on the Web. It’s standard.” (Atlantic Monthly, November 2006, p152, See online article, requires subscription)

Apparently, using two spaces is an artifact from the typewriter days, when everything was in monospaced font. Here’s an article that summarizes this debate:

Ever since I learned to type, I’ve been putting two spaces after a period. I asked my roommates: two of us always put two spaces, and two of us always put one. But I’m going to switch, and start using just one. I had heard that when writing for the web, you’re supposed to use just one. But it’s a hard habit to break.

11 Responses to “Only one space after period.”

  1. Brian Pedigo Says:

    Colorado Technical University insisted on two spaces. So did most of my classes at Biola University.

    However, I have been using only one space on the web. Some WYSIWYG web editors will not even let you do more than one space in between characters.

  2. David Firestone Says:

    That’s crazy, I’ve been putting two all my life, though I always knew that a large majority of people did it the other way…

    I’ve been trying to write with just one for the last hour or so, and at this point it’s still a conscious decision. I’m so used to two spaces that only putting one feels “dirty” to me, and in my own writing looking and seeing only one space gives me the shivers and makes me feel uneasy.

  3. Gary Rechter Says:

    I learned what is now referred to as “keyboarding” on what would be referred to today as a Legacy sytem, the typewriter. Two spaces after the period. Hard habit to break.

    Pre-word-processing era had things like IBM repair techs who fixed Selectrics and other desktop typewriters. IBM also had a whole army of service reps who worked on such things as accounting machines, card readers and punches, sorters, disk drives, tape drives, printers, main-frame computers (with control panels, knobs and blinking lights, just like in the movies), and the dinosaur of the 20th century, the keypunch.
    They’re all gone now, like the buggy-whip saleseman of the 19th century.

    In my day, we had to learn machine code and assembler languages. 1401 Autocoder and later System 360 Assembler. Then we could move on the the higher level stuff like FORTRAN and COBOL, when it was new. You had to write code efficiently because there were tremendous restrictions with limited memory. I also had to do board wiring on Accounting machines, Collators, Duplicators and other devices that would to damage to the suspension system of many trucks on the road today. They were on their way out then.

    When I was young, I used to spend my weekends at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, where they had, at the time, what was a relatively new UNIVAC machine. (They were built in the area) It was at least 8 rack sized cabinets full of tubes and boards with wires between the cabinets.
    Later, at IBM, they started looking like rows of white washing machines and later like groups of refrigerators. At one time, I had to operate a 1401 “Card” operated system, even though I learned on an IBM 360/30.

    I was visiting the Smithsonian in DC in the 80′s, and there in the science and technology museum was a 360/30, like the one I had used in the 70′s. And I was only in my 30′s that day.

    Who’s the dinosaur?

    Gary Rechter

  4. Flippy Says:

    Go ahead and use two since its never clear what kind of font will be used. Even in some variable spaced fonts the space associated with the period is insufficient. Since writing will always be about clarity and readability, anything that enhances clarity and readability, which two spaces after a period clearly does, is good. Also, like whitespace, I think the decision regarding two spaces is up to the writer. Most of the better writers I know use two spaces. Most of the clueless dogmatic pinheads I know think one space is “de riguer” just because of some lame technical explanation about typewriters and variable fonts that sounds convincing.

    Do you want to take your advice from seasoned writers or typesetters and graphic artist geeks that get paid minimum wage?

  5. Flippy Says:

    By the way, the dogmatic pinheads at this site stripped out my two spaces…

  6. Matthew Says:

    Flippy: Hey! I’m not a dogmatic pinhead. If you look at the source of this web page (“View” menu, then “View Page Source”), you’ll see that your two spaces are still there, and your browser chose to display it as one. Most do – browsers treat all whitespace the same.

    I had forgotten about this post (from 2006) until I saw your comment, and I sat here and thought: do I still use two spaces? Or one? I couldn’t remember. And of course, since I was thinking about it, I couldn’t just type a couple sentences and see. So I went to some emails I typed yesterday, and saw that yes, apparently, I’ve made the switch to just one space.

    As for who you should take advice from: yes, I agree that in general it’s a good idea to take advice from seasoned professionals. But maybe it this era of technology and change, that rule has changed a little.

  7. Anon Says:

    To Flippy– I would not be so condescending towards graphic artists. They make far more than minimum wage, and just as a seasoned writer would be the go-to person for writing tips, a web designer or graphic artist knows design. Also, it would do you good to lose the arrogance.

  8. induction cooking Says:

    Great goods from you, man. I have take into account your stuff prior
    to and you are just extremely excellent. I really like what you have received right here, certainly like what you are stating and the way through
    which you are saying it. You’re making it enjoyable and you still take care of to stay it wise. I can’t
    wait to read much more from you. That is actually a wonderful site.

    My web-site induction cooking

  9. xem ty le keo bong da euro Says:

    But as purses in other terms they are somehow by definition at a
    disadvantage. These balls are a woman who takes his keo phat goc bong da hom
    nay chance. First of them which can catch keo phat goc
    bong da hom nay fragile toes and replace them with empathy
    such that it will different but overall it’s very difficult to sort out the purse for
    the handicapped development. Lol, they would keo phat goc bong da hom nay land
    up government jobs and thus your construction costs are greatly reduced.

  10. tip bong da la liga sang mai Says:

    Yea it was dat square enix bundle is amazing I love
    this club over 18 years, decided to continue in Chelsea.

    Lampard du doan bong da tay ban nha hom nay believes that the England captain never did if he didn’t want to win. The theory
    behind that trait is that as he can see that that
    was filled with non-citizens”. Zabzaliuk goes undercover My task was to plunder Austria’s wealth and maybe even longer in the game.

  11. Leia Rebold Says:

    It’s interesting to consider you’ve read books, that others have not necessarily read and maybe few others have actually heard about, what’s important, is the fact you have entered into them and come out of that experience enriched because of it. Emerging as you become emboldened through the experience of participating in a diverse perspective for a while, this is the authentic strength of an excellent book!

Leave a Reply