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It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

One space or two after a full stop?

Forget left and right wing, forget coriander lovers v haters. The real divide in our society is between the one spacers and the two spacers. And Slate’s restarted the war with this article: Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period

Two-spacers are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste. You’d expect, for instance, that anyone savvy enough to read Slate would know the proper rules of typing, but you’d be wrong; every third e-mail I get from readers includes the two-space error.

I’m a one spacer, and I’ll tell you why: Go to your bookshelf, open up any book, and look after any full stop. You’ll find one space. That’s how the pros do it.

Back in the days of typewriters, all the characters were monospaced, so an ‘m’ took up the same space as an ‘i’. A monospaced font will look like crap if there’s only one space after a full stop, so people were taught to use two. Nowadays, we have computers with well-designed typefaces, so you only need one space, as nature intended.

I can only see two reasons to use two spaces. Either you’re on a clanky old IBM Selectric, or you were taught to type by sadistic nuns who beat you if you forgot the extra space. The former can be cured with a computer, the latter with therapy.

7 Comments

  1. coriander hater and single spacer 🙂

  2. I was taught to use two spaces, and it's a habit that's nearly impossible to break. And I've tried.

  3. Oh geez, another thing my MIL tried to pass on to me that never stuck. I thought I was some kind of deficient typer because I couldn't seem to get used to the 2-spaces she insisted were the 'right way' to do it. Now I'm glad it never stuck.

    Oh, and coriander LOVER! just about to add some to my capsicum and cherry tomato salsa 🙂

  4. I blame Mavis Beacon.

  5. I used to be a double spacer (as I had been taught) but I sort of transitioned naturally to single spaces. I must say, I wish there was a bigger debate about using apostrophes to pluralise nouns. I've seen even "the professionals" make this mistake (newspapers, magazines, signage)…

  6. I use two spaces, as this was drummed into me by my typist mother who worked for years with monospaced typewriters. I appreciate the argument about fonts being different now, but as bad habits go, I have other more important ones to break first. (Like commenting on blogs when I should be working on my thesis, for instance.)

  7. The argument that you needed double spacing with a monospaced font but don't with a proportional font is total rubbish. Double spacing with a proportional font takes up less space than double spacing with a fixed font so it is less noticeable with a proportional font than it is with a monospaced font. If anything it is needed more with a proportional font so you don't confuse internal abbreviations with sentence-ending full stops.

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