One space, or two?

When typing, do you put one, or two spaces after your full stops? I put one, but it seems like a lot of people put two.

I’m not sure why this is, other than a hangover from manual typewriters when it looked better.

Or perhaps it’s like the thing where Catholics pronounce H as “haitch”, and everybody else “aitch”?

In web pages it makes no difference; in HTML only one space will be displayed. Where it really matters is where your final output will be on paper (virtual/PDF, or real), the extra spaces have an impact.

Maybe it’s like asking which way you put your boiled egg in the cup. The sort of thing Lilliput might go to war over, but ultimately it’s not all that important.

Doesn’t stop me stamping them out when they creep into text I’m in charge of though. Death to double spaces!

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34 Replies to “One space, or two?”

  1. I recently moved away from the double space as well. Single space all the way :)

    And as others have commented, it is a hangover from the typewriter days.

  2. My partner nags me constantly about the need to make double spaces after the full stop. Now I have just almost learnt to do it automatically, I must revert. But I never used to double space when I typed on a manual typewriter.

  3. It’s a typographical convention. Of course it’s unnecessary to type an actual double space if your software can add the space for you, after each full stop. As far as I’m aware, early word processing software didn’t do it all, though I’m not exactly sure what the current status us. Software such as LyX won’t even let you enter two spaces, because spacing is handled by its typographical rendering.

    Wikipedia covers this topic in some detail at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_spacing

  4. Double spaces after a period are often referred to as “French spacing”. Naturally Wikipedia has an article on this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_spacing

    I use double spaces, a habit I’ve kept since I was taught how to type using a typewriter in the early 80s. Much too late for me to break the habit now. In any case I prefer writing this way in e-mail (where I use monospaced plain-text format).

    – ozz

  5. I was always told to do two spaces after a full stop. I’ve never really stopped typing that way. I think it looks better anyway.

  6. I was taught in typing class that all typing had to be with double space after period. That was just the “RULE”. I always put double spaces after mine. Pure habit, as I’m a touch typist. Can I train myself not to? Um, yeah, likely but it’s one of those “does it really matter?” ideas. Methinks a giant no :)

  7. I used to be in the Navy, and double spaces were in the style guidelines. As a result I have kept this in my day to day typing. Just like I still write my eights as on circle on top of the other – because I was taught to do this in technical drawing. And my nines are like a small spiral in one continuous motion. I’m just odd :)

  8. 2 spaces definitely. it makes it far more readable. especially for people who skim read and don’t read every word. when making web pages in dreamweaver, dreamweaver will leave in the extra space by putting ” “

  9. I was always told one space after a comma and two spaces after a fullstop is the proper Australian English format. One space after a fullstop is American.

    Likewise how you pronounce H or Z is country specific as well – for example Canadians say Zed whereas Americans say Zee.

    Sorry to say I’m the opposite to you Daniel – I correct anything that has SINGLE spaces in it as it’s as rediculous as the amount of American spelling creeping into our language, I can’t stand it.

    Reason HTML supresses the spaces is white space is considered irrelevant within the raw HTML code – you can put fifty spaces and it will only be a single space because it’s considered whitespace. If you wanted two spaces you’d need   

  10. There’s a different way to put your boiled egg in a cup?!?!?! What is the world coming to!

    Oh yeah, and I was taught double space after full stop, single after comma. Typewriters were one thing, PCs are the rage now and it’s single spacing generally.

  11. Double spacing is also taught in the USA. I was taught this way in typing class in 1982 on a manual typewriter. The very next semester the school replaced the manual typewriters with electric ones. The internet is likely to blame for any changes in traditionl Australian spelling.

    Is Australian spelling all British or are some spellings unique to Australia?

  12. Spelling checkers are more the cause for the erosion of Australian spelling. This was evident before the Internet became wide-spread.

    As for differences in British vs. Australian spelling, Australian spelling is certainly closer to British spelling than American. Though big difference, however, is -ize vs. -ise (realise, organise, authorise, etc.). American spelling favours -ize, the British have no preference, while Australian spelling favours -ise.

  13. Actually the Brits favour -ise.

    The reading I’m doing indicates spacing has nothing to do with US or AU or UK; it’s to do with old-style typesetting, particularly in non-proportional fonts, where a double space was seen as better.

    Part of the problem of spell-checking is broken systems which default to US spelling, even after you’ve told them time and time again you want AU (or whatever else). MS Word is particularly bad for this.

  14. Daniel,

    Double spacing emulates a properly kerned period – space pair. If you were taught typing prior to about 2000, you will have been taught (incorrectly) to double space.

    Font designers spent a great deal of time adding kerning hints to pairs and sets of characters. Period – space gets a lot of attention as it’s traditionally somewhere between one and two spaces compared with any other character pair, including comma – space pairs.

    Therefore, if you are not using a monospaced typewriter, you should do as I do – I find and replace all double spaced periods and make them a single spaced period. You can also set Word to find this and it will do a little squiggle if you get it wrong.

    The font choice (other than Courier etc) will automatically kern spacing correctly for you. It will look exactly how the font designers – who know way more about spacing and typography than we do – want it to be. Any more and it’ll look wrong. Any less and it’ll look cramped.

    Just because it was the “RULES” back in the day and beaten into you by mistaken teachers, doesn’t mean double spacing is right.

    thanks,
    Andrew

  15. Yeah I’m a double spacer. Learn’t to type before the days of PCs. And I put my egg blunt end up, so I can break the air space first. Or is that pointy end up so I can break the air space first. Its been a loooong time since I’ve eaten a boiled egg.

  16. >> Part of the problem of spell-checking is broken systems which default to US spelling, even after you’ve told them time and time again you want AU (or whatever else). MS Word is particularly bad for this.

    I’ve always found it to be the fault of IT departments, not MS Word.

    The very first time you install Windows you are given the option of specifying the operating system’s default and keyboard languages, which in my experience 99% of people don’t change. Leave it at the default of “English (United States)” and that computer will forever, ever and ever and ever and ever, be cursed with applications configuring themselves with wrong spell checkers and paper sizes. You’d certainly know if you do change these settings though, since EVERY version of Windows you have to actually go into the keyboard and language settings and delete English (US) *twice* for it to actually work… do it once and you’ll end up with both languages, or don’t do it at all, and your software (including Word) will always install support for US languages.

    This is the way I’ve been configuring SOEs for 13 years and none of my systems ever have this problem – the second you jump on another machine sure enough they start having language issues, and almost as certainly you eventually find somewhere in the system there’s a reference to English (US) as the root cause. Fix it, uninstall Office, reinstall Office, and you should never have the issue again.

    Even worse culprit again are servers – I’ve never encountered servers that I haven’t set up that aren’t set as English (United States). I swear I’m the only one that bothers changing this… :(

  17. Daniel, I did typing for three years at school (1985-1987) because I knew I would need it later in life, and was always taught one space after a comma, two after a full stop, a rule I follow to this day. The only time I don’t is when sending an sms that’s too long and i need that extra character!

  18. It’s like the way atheists always load toilet paper rolls so they roll towards the wall instead of away from it.

  19. Chris, it’s still a problem with Word/Windows – I found it kept switching even though my regional settings were correctly on EN-AU. Sure, you can delete EN-US if you try hard enough, but I don’t think you should have to. It’s buggy to have it override your preference all the time.

    For what it’s worth, I learned typing in high school and again in uni. Obviously I wasn’t paying attention, as I actually don’t remember being told one way or the other about spaces after full stops!

  20. BTW regarding Office Spellcheck… well my surname (which I’m not going to repeat here) is counted as a misspelling by Office Autocorrect. I’ve deleted it for most of my colleagues, but very often I get an email or letter from someone and my name is mispelt. If I ever meet Bill Gates I’m going to have a word or two with him about it.

  21. By the way, the Australian Government Style Guide, which is what all professional writing should follow, dictates that a single space shall be used after a full stop. Various companies screw around and produce their own, gramatically or typographically incorrect ‘styles’, but the proper one tells us to use one space.

  22. I did a year of typing class in 1989 on electric typewriters, but I don’t recall any instruction on single or double spaces after the full stop. Hence, I’ve always used just one. As noted by Andrew, most fonts automatically place a small amount of extra space after a full stop, anyway.

  23. I like the double space.

    I’m unique BTW – I was brought up a Catholic and I pronounce “h” “aitch”.

    I’m not sure if the sweeping generalisation there is that I’m unique or that I was brought up a Catholic :-)

  24. As many have said, double space is a hang over from monospaced typewriters – I certainly remember being instructed to use two after a full stop or colon. But
    ozzmosis got it tangled – this is English spacing. French spacing uses single after full stop, but extra space around other punctuation marks.

    Nowadays, single space is the way to go – word processors should automatically add a larger space where needed and HTML doesn’t recognise two spaces.

  25. Daniel … I learned to type on a (US) Navy
    “telegraphic keyboard”. since transmission time was at a premium, we did not add extra spaces. However, I’ve noticed that the Mavis Beacon Typing tutor requires two spaces after a full stop. Whilst applying for several jobs in America, all of which required a typing test, I was chagrined to find that my total speed and accuracy were reduced because I did not use two spaces. My preference is to enter one space. However, if taking a test, I slow down just a hair and remember to add that extra space. In the long run, I think it just comes down to personal preference. i believe that some of the older versions of WordPerfect and MS Word may have added an extra space as the default.

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