Language Corner
Materials on preserving errors for appellate review

One space is enough

Thirty-four years ago in high-school typing class, I learned to hit the space bar twice at the end of each sentence. This was good advice, because my instrument was an Underwood typewriter (not as old as this one, but almost).

Today, writing on a computer with proportionally spaced typefaces, one space is enough; two is too many. For reasons why, read One Space or Two?, by Ken Adams.


p.s. (11/2/06): See also Ruth Ann Robbins, Painting With Print, 2 J. ALWD 108, 129 (2004) (footnotes omitted):

The practice of using two spaces between sentences and indented first lines to begin the new paragraph are merely remnants of days when attorneys had only typewriters at their disposal and were forced to use a monospaced font. Using a monospaced font requires two spaces between sentences in order to provide enough visual cueing through width. But using two spaces with proportionally spaced fonts will create extra gaps, which will cause the reader to experience a greater fixation pause between sentences as her eye searches for the next phrase.


John Law Student

One problem I’ve run in to is ending sentences with “a.m.” or “p.m.” I now just avoid this (not too hard), but it is visually confusing when only using one space between sentences.

Although the style guides vary, the proper typographical solution is to use small caps for this kind of abbreviation. But my legal writing prof specifically said not to do this. Small caps are kind of a pain anyway. Despite the advice of every style guide (The Red Book, MLA, Chicago), he also prefers two spaces between sentences although does not require it.

I personally type two spaces after a period by force of habit, and likely always will. In email it makes sense: you should not assume a proportional font on the other end. (And in email you should stick to strict ASCII and avoid any special formatting, but that’s a different story.)

When creating something that is to be printed or turned into a PDF (same thing really) I always do a search and replace on the two spaces.

I recommend the book “The Mac is Not a Typewriter” (there’s also “The PC is Not a Typewriter”). It is a crash course on the basic typographical conventions one should follow when creating text on a computer.

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