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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Um, how did I not know that there should be ONE space after a period instead of TWO?

So it turns out that all my self-righteous grammar rants have been riddled with syntactical errors. I've just learned that I'm supposed to use ONE space after a period instead of TWO. Somewhere along the way I was taught to use two spaces after a period and I stuck to that, but, oopsie, it's all wrong.

Here's an overview of this subject from an expert:
Chicago Manual of Style: "The view at CMOS is that there is no reason for two spaces after a period in published work. Some people, however—my colleagues included—prefer it, relegating this preference to their personal correspondence and notes. I’ve noticed in old American books printed in the few decades before and after the turn of the last century (ca. 1870–1930 at least) that there seemed to be a trend in publishing to use extra space (sometimes quite a bit of it) after periods. And many people were taught to use that extra space in typing class (I was). But introducing two spaces after the period causes problems: (1) it is inefficient, requiring an extra keystroke for every sentence; (2) even if a program is set to automatically put an extra space after a period, such automation is never foolproof; (3) there is no proof that an extra space actually improves readability—as your comment suggests, it’s probably just a matter of familiarity (Who knows? perhaps it’s actually more efficient to read with less regard for sentences as individual units of thought—many centuries ago, for example in ancient Greece, there were no spaces even between words, and no punctuation); (4) two spaces are harder to control for than one in electronic documents (I find that the earmark of a document that imposes a two-space rule is a smattering of instances of both three spaces and one space after a period, and two spaces in the middle of sentences); and (5) two spaces can cause problems with line breaks in certain programs."

And this article lays out opinions from various other experts:
"Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule." 

I am so married to the post-period two-space that I absentmindedly used two spaces after every period in this very blog post. I had to go back and edit them down. My head is exploding.


  1. I was taught to put two spaces after a period when I learned to type in high school. Then, my first job out of college was at a marketing-design firm. One of my jobs was to type copy up and then give it to the designer (on a floppy disk). He would march over to my desk and ask that I reform my ways and only use one space because he had to go "back in" and remove all of the extra spaces. At first he was nice about it, but when I forgot a few times in a row, he became more adamant. That scared me straight. Henceforth, one space after a period!

    1. So interesting. How is it possible that never happened to me in any of my jobs? It's really blowing my mind!