« Using the Articles 'A' or 'An' Before the Words 'Historic' or 'Historical' | Main | Do You Talk To Your Dissertation? - What It Might Sound Like if You Could »

November 05, 2007

Rumors of *Two-Spaces-After-a-Period*'s Death Are Highly Exaggerated

Image Source: http://www.bersin.com/blog/image.axd?picture=monkeyfinal_1224016198.jpg

Students and Friends,

There is a famous quotation (I forget the source, so I paraphrase) that suggests if someone hypothetically put a chimpanzee in front of a typewriter and allowed it to type randomly for an unspecified amount of time, eventually the chimp's efforts would produce a recognizable word. My question is--if you let a chimp type long enough, would it put two spaces after a full-stop period?

Folks, I learned to type on an actual manual typewriter in the 1980s! I can show you a dozen style guides that maintain the two-space after a full-stop rule. Some newer guides, such as MLA's sixth edition, claim it is now acceptable to use one OR two spaces, as long as the typist is consistent.

To me, this newfangled, one-space-only-after-full-stops thingy just looks way too "Internety," if I may use that word, on unpublished, yet printed, hardcopies of typed manuscripts. It's the same with the extra space between paragraphs and no paragraph indentions (what we used to call the business letter format). Should we or shouldn't we make distinctions between the two types of writing--unpublished, typed and printed hardcopy manuscripts and "published" online text seen on a monitor's screen?

Although many out there have come up with good reasons to try and extinguish the old and established two-space rule from the days of typewriting, I've found that . . .

. . . I'm not the only one who feels this way! In addition to the comments left below (please share your own thoughts) visit the article hyperlinked below that I found when I had to "verify" that this rule was still in existence.

Although there is an abundance of evidence to show that professional typographers (which most of us/you are not) and those using computer applications to publish online (such as this blog) need only put one space because of the automatic kearning, etc. employed by the software, I still maintain that--for my courses, anyway--you should be using two spaces after a period for printed, typed manuscripts, especially when you are using typewriter-styled fonts such as Courier. The two spaces, in my opinion, still indicate a necessary "break" to the reader's eyes.

After you are done with my course, you can go back to doing whatever you want!

Happy typing,

Dr. Hobbs, the old two-spacing curmudgeon


. . . After years of doing it correctly, I have gone and purposely done it wrong over and over again. I know what is considered right (no double space) and what is considered wrong (double space), but after years of doing graphic design, I no longer follow that rule so closely. I have two exceptions I personally follow, and nobody has ever noticed until I point it out to them (and then they chastise me for not knowing the 'correct way'). I know that professional typesetters use 1 space, and I know that typing teachers taught 2 spaces, and I know why. In professional printing, you have . . .

Click Here to Read the Rest of Adrian Roselli's Post "Two Spaces After a Period Isn't Dead Yet"

UPDATE 3 August 2014:
See also Heraclitus's "Why Two Periods after a Sentence Isn't Wrong (Or, the Lies Typographers Tell about History)"

Posted by lhobbs at November 5, 2007 08:42 PM

Readers' Comments:

Thanks for writing this man. The one space thing irritates the living crap out of me!

I honestly think it's a matter of pure laziness. It's part of our system of writing and is just as important as using tabs (which also seem to be disappearing). It's part of the logical system of separation of ideas.

Of course I'll admit that I often forget whether the two-space rule applies to semicolons or not. But for periods, it's a must!

Posted by: Drew Ward at October 8, 2007 09:05 AM

Hi Drew,

LOL, yeah my writing students think I'm either totally insane or just plain mean for requiring this. Is typing still taught in high schools? I'm guessing there are PC tutorials now that schools use on classroom computers. I wonder if those programs teach the two-space rule for typed manuscripts or not.

Thanks for your comments,


Posted by: Lee Hobbs at October 27, 2007 09:17 AM

I wish software such as WORD would put a little squiggly line every time someone failed to click the space bar twice.

Great post!

the forums


Hi David, thanks for your comment. I'm pretty sure that in MS-Word 2003, the version I use, you can set up a grammar or typing rule to visually acknowledge (or, auto-correct), the number of spaces after a period. The newest version of MS-Word is the Vista version. I don't have that version on my own systems (it's really different in format from all the previous versions) and thus, don't know where that particular function is--but, I feel sure it must exist. Do a search for it and please let me know if anything turns up. I'll repost it here.

Posted by: David Vincent at November 24, 2007 02:51 PM


I went to high school in the late nineties. I was taught two spaces! I didn't even find out one space was the norm until a few months ago. I agree with Drew! Laziness! I can't stand it! Who decided on one space, anyway? And why? What a stupid change! I'm going to start a revertolution (a revolution that moves us back). Who's with me?


Posted by: Hauskhat at November 27, 2007 02:54 PM

Hi Hauskhat,

Thanks for your comments.

Yeah, sign me up for that revertolution!


Posted by: Lee Hobbs at November 27, 2007 05:25 PM

You are all insane! One space is not laziness, it's more efficient!

As Lee says, two spaces after a period when using a typewriter font makes sense, otherwise it is absurdly unnecessary. This is, afterall, a matter of preference and not readability, so why not let students choose one or two spaces as long as they are consistent? After all, the spacebar becomes habit.

I think your students have a justifiable argument, Lee, if they are one-spacers and you're grading down because they miss a double space here and there.

My preference is one space. Two spaces after a period, in my opinion, creates gaping holes of white space and makes one sentence feel disconnected from the previous one.


Thanks for your comments Doug. If this is a numbers thing, it looks like you guys will ultimately win the battle! Things do change--it's true--and this is one I may have to let go of eventually. For the time being, our department has set a standard for typed, academic manuscripts on paper (hardcopy).


Posted by: Doug at October 20, 2008 02:29 PM

Most internet browsers only format one. Space. Looks like that's the way it's going to be.


Comments from Lee:

Thanks Ryan for that comment on the discourse.

Posted by: ryan at December 3, 2008 10:07 PM

My Blog

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Some rights reserved. 2006.