Should One Space Follow a Period or Two?

This may fall into the category of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but I don’t think so.  Apparently there is a raging debate over whether one space should follow a period or if there should be two.  As you can tell from reading this so far, I fall into the “two-space” camp.  But for a passionate opposing argument, see this article in Slate magazine.

This came to my attention recently when I noticed that some of the younger staffers here use only one space after a period in the copy they draft for me to read on the teleprompter. When I edit their copy, I always add a second space. It’s how I was taught, but more importantly, I find it easier to read. But apparently, this is a debate that transcends generations. Some younger folks use two, some older folks use one. For me, though, my preference primarily has to do with visual clarity. A test: which was easier to read, this paragraph or the first?

How about you, which do you prefer and why?

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  • Vbaron

    I prefer two. And double space, by all means… =)

  • Ross

    I was taught and prefer a double space (aged 35), but a young buck a few years ago told me that was no longer the generally accepted practice. Even absent that admonition, thanks to Twitter et al, we’re now obsessed with counting characters (with spaces) so that extra one between sentences is especially valuable.

  • Ross Cavanagh

    I believe this is a generational technical issue. When I was a taught to type the rule was to hit the space bar twice after a colon and at the end of each sentence. However, when we moved into the age of personal computers, I started to work on Mac and read a book by Robin Williams (not the comic) “Mac Is Not a Typewriter”. In the book, if I remember correctly, Ms. Williams points out that a typewriter equally spaced all characters, so a capital ‘W’ took the same space as a lowercase “i”. She goes on to say a computer is more similar to a true typesetting machine where each character varies in the space it takes up on the page or screen. Therefore she says we no longer need to add that extra space after the period. I figured I’d try the new way and never looked back, until now. Did I make a poor choice? I wonder…

  • Paul

    When I try to use double spacing after a period on Microsoft Word, it shows an error (underline in red) will correct it to single space.

  • To answer your question paragraph one was easier to read.

    Its true that Microsoft word is tries to auto correct these “mistakes” but I did find a great Yahoo answers about how to change the auto correct settings. You can actually make word do a double space automatically though.

  • Liz

    In elementary school, I was taught one space.

    Through undergrad (where I used MLA style), a brief journalism stint (AP style) and grad school (Chicago style) I broke the two-space habit. I’d say that three major, widely used style guides agreeing on one space over two is hardly a “raging debate,” don’t you think?

    Grammar Girl tackles this issue with her usual helpfulness.

    Also, I noticed no difference whatsoever in the readability of your two paragraphs, unless you count the fact that I was distracted by your extra spaces in your first paragraph, and my innate copy editor’s desire to fix them 🙂

    My burning question: how many spaces does one put after an emoticon?