« A Plethora of Plethoras | Main | Quotation Device »

March 09, 2007


Conrad Quilty-Harper

That's interesting - I've never actually met anyone that insists on doing double spacing after sentences...

Dan Santow

Conrad, thanks for your comment. I'm actually surprised at how many people still DO use two spaces after periods (including people who learned to type on computers as opposed to on typewriters), which is what inspired me to write this post. (When I wrote writing tips for my colleagues at Edelman alone, pre-public-blog, I had written about this, as well). We have a few clients, or client contacts anyhow, who insist on it, too, and while no doubt their intentions are honest (I don't really think they're doing it just to get my goat) in the end I really do think it works against them for the simple reason that copy is harder to read when there are all the little gaps two spaces create.


Amen! I'm glad to see someone else with a geeky vendetta against extra spaces. Did you ever spend time as a print-publication editor? That's where my developed my hawk eye for this spacing trash.


So interesting. I had no idea. My thumbs thank you.


I learned to officially type on a TYPEWRITER! Mine was the last class to use the typewriter before everyone was supposed to learn on the computer. I do use TWO spaces because that I the way I was taught. And if you look at most of your co-workers, they really can't type anyway! They don't line up with the ASDF-JKL; and I DO! Which is why I can type accurately and faster than most and I use the OLD SCHOOL technique of two spaces! I will keep this page so I can use your tip on how to replace with one space because it is too natural for me to do it any other way.



THANK YOU for this post. I learned to type on a computer and was never taught the bad habit of putting two spaces at the end of sentences. I always felt it looked awkward with proportionally spaced type and have found myself deleting extra spaces in other people's assignments and projects since high school. And in response to Carmen's comment, yes I do line up properly to type despite never having used a typewriter.


Even though we had tons of computers at our high school in the late 80's, we still were taught "keyboarding" on a typewriter and were taught the two space thing. To this day it is very hard for me not to tap the big long key twice. (I had to edit this comment, and it only had three sentences!)


What a breath of fresh air! Of all the archane writing habits that just won't die, this one is among the most obnoxious! Thank you for sharing a post that is much-needed.

Dan Santow

Thanks for your comment everyone – they are very much appreciated.

Mike. I’ll leave it to you to characterize this tip as a ”geeky vendetta.” I’d characterize it more in the “pet peeve” category. (My vendettas, which exist mostly in my mind, address far more weighty issues, like war, starvation, global warming, George Bush, etc.)

Carmen, I spent my formative typing years using a Selectric typewriter, which I though was about as cool as could be. Who knew there’d be computers eventually! Anyhow, the search-and-replace method of catching two spaces works well – let me know how it goes. I’m determined to stamp out post-period laxity.


I. Can't. Stop. Using. Two. Spaces.

I was one of the first classes at my high school to learn on a computer--the other class was still using typewriters. My thumb is so trained to hitting it twice, that I can't stop. And I think it looks weird to use just one, so I apologize in advance for anything you get from me on a weekly basis on Friday mornings.

Cough, cough.

Kay Lynn

My version of Word uses control/f for the find and replace feature, for those of you who can't figure out why the command isn't working.

Dan Santow

Leah, thanks for your funny comment. But, really, just because you think it looks better isn’t a good reason to keep doing it. I hear that a lot from people – “well, I think the comma looks good there.” To be honest, sometimes I don’t even know how to respond…

Kay, thanks for your great tip.


Good Lord! With all that's going on in the world, can you imagine anything *less* important than worrying about how many spaces appear between sentences?

Please, I beg you, try to be relevant.

Rick Short

Dan, you are a treasure. This (two spaces)is an engrained habit that I vow to break (old school, Selectric, etc.).

Keep the great info coming. You are MANDATORY reading in my Marcom department.

PS: How about a discussion on the proper use of periods when quotes, parenthetical expressions, and all the other weird things we do, are at the end of a sentence?


As a graphic designer, I was aware of this - but it's true that many outside the field are not.

I too, always use the seek/destroy(find/replace) tool (various programs offer something to this effect), to help edit large files received from outside sources.

Thanks for bringing people up to speed!

Steve Dinn

The good thing is, since a large portion of published text is in HTML format, it doesn't matter anymore since whitespace is ignored in HTML.

Lisa B.

Thank you for posting this. I proofread materials all the time that still have the two spaces. Some people don't even believe me when I tell them that it's not necessary to type two spaces on the computer. I, like most people here, learned to type on a typewriter in the early 80's. It's not that hard to get over the habit, but the search and replace also works - I use it all the time on the stuff I'm proofreading!

Bill Harris

You hit one of my pet peeves, but you went in the other direction! :-)

Emacs, my favorite and most productive way to set words on paper or into electrons, lets you quickly navigate across letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs as well as copy, delete, or swap those entities. It recognizes sentences by the presence of a full stop (period) followed by two spaces. When I have to process text others have sent me, one of my first challenges is replacing each such single space with double spaces.

Don't worry about the layout of finished work, though; I tend to use LaTeX or DocBook (or perhaps AsciiDoc), and those do their appropriate typesetting work independently of the number of spaces after the period in the source text. In LaTeX, at least, you can choose how it should typeset the end of sentences.

So, /please/ do put two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence! :-)






Bill Harris

In follow-on to my last comment, I should note that I do remove the extra spaces when I have to write in Word or OO.o, since they can't do the typesetting. Then again, I try not to have to use Word.


I've heard this before...however, I'm not sure I could break that habit even if I wanted to. But really, it can't make that much of a difference in how it looks--I'd think that the text would still be as easy to read. It certainly helps if you are trying to scan the text quickly.

Dan Santow

What’s been really interesting is how many comments this post has so far inspired and what strong feelings people have about it.

For instance, Dare’s comment (above). Obviously, Dare, there are more important things going on in the world, but I don’t write a blog about global warming or gay marriage or ethnic cleansing, I write a blog about writing. And to me writing encompasses a lot of different things, including grammar, of course, but style, formatting, and a slew of other stuff that I try to address. Is giving up the two-space rule going to turn someone into the next Woodward or Bernstein? No. But doing so will make one’s writing a smidgeon easier to read. And every smidgeon counts.

Bill! I’m a bit of a geek, a bit of a writing geek, but not at all a techy geek, so to be honest I didn’t really understand your (first) comment here. But I’m sure that those who did found it enlightening. ; )

Jeff, that two spaces is distracting is subjective, so I won’t argue with you whether they make things harder or easier to read. But two spaces is no longer a format to which most publications or writers adhere, so if for no other reason, I’d still recommend you break the habit.

Bill Harris

Dan, sorry for being confusing. :-) Most of us, I think, find it handy to be able to navigate by letters (the arrow keys), words (Ctrl-arrow key), and lines (the other arrow keys). With Emacs, you can also navigate (skip forward or backward) by sentences or paragraphs. The only way it can identify a sentence, though, is by seeing a terminal punctuation (.!?) followed by /two/ spaces.

Emacs can also do things such as copy, delete, or move units of text, too. While Word can manage much of that with letters and words, Emacs extends it at least to sentences and paragraphs.

Does that help?

If you're worried that those two spaces will make the final product look ugly, use the free LaTeX typesetting program instead. It ignores extra whitespace you might use and puts in the proper amount. It's configurable, too. See http://facilitatedsystems.com/links.html#writing

Thanks for the blog, BTW. I think I'll keep reading.

Jackie Serviss

Not using two spaces is another example of American English corrupting the basics of the English language.

American English tries to simplify everything, but that doesn't make it right.

colour- color
through- thru
two spaces- one space

Two spaces were originally intended to stress the finality of a period. They do the same thing now. And the pages look better when paragraphs are spaced apart and sentences are spaced apart.


au contraire re american english...you show your ignorance! It is part of many government style guides in England and Australia, who detest and abhor americanisations and are anal regarding correct standards!

The two-space rule was introduced for typewriters and mono-spacing as stated. For all those who stamp their feet about it being easier to read... show me one professionally set typeset fiction book that is designed for you to put your feet up and be absorbed into the story that has double spacing. Exactly. Doesn't happen.

Double-spacing adds rivers of white which slow the reading motion as it jars and causes us to pause. It does not aid fluid reading.


I personally prefer the two spaces after the period. For me, sentences all run together visually unless they are broken by more spaces. It's easier for me to read and skim through works when I can quickly find the beginning of sentences. Without two spaces, everything looks like one big run-on sentence.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Why "Word Wise"?

  • When I started to e-mail out a weekly writing tip to my Chicago colleagues at Edelman in 2002, little did I know how quickly how many people outside my office would start to request it. But word spread, as word is wont to do, and in 2006 the e-mail evolved into this blog. The tips, which are about grammar, usage and style, have a dual purpose – to remind my colleagues in PR of the power of the written word and, more generally, to support and perpetuate clear, concise, creative, honest, lively, stylish, compelling writing everywhere. In 2009 I started to add commentary about and links to stories and other blog posts related to the media, marketing, writing and, sometimes, just interesting stuff. For some reason, I also started Twittering (at SantowDan).