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How Many Spaces after a Period? | Savvy Tech Tips

December 18th 2006

How Many Spaces after a Period?

Computer: All • Level: Novice

Pop Quiz: You finish typing a sentence. How many spaces do you add after the period, before you begin the next sentence?

If you’re like many people, you’ll likely say two, because that’s the way you were taught in high school.

Well, things change, and not everything your high school teachers taught you is correct. The correct answer is one space.onespace.gif


Two spaces after a period is a throwback to the typewriter days of yesteryear, when letters in typefaces were all the same width and two spaces were needed to help delineate the end of a sentence. Nowadays, computer characters have variable widths so only one space is used after a period.

Don’t believe me? Well, pick up any popular magazine or book and take a look. All professionally typeset pieces have one space after the period.

Think academic writing is exempt from this rule? Not true. The APA Publication Manual (5th edition, page 290) says this: “Space once after all punctuation as follows:…after punctuation marks at the ends of sentences.”

onespace2.gifDon’t feel too special if part of you is rebelling against this one-space rule. When I cover this in design seminars, it’s amazing to see the shock and disbelief it causes in a few participants. It’s as if they have been told the world is flat, or that Santa is not real. But times change, and it’s time to leave the 20th century behind us.

Period. Space. Next sentence.

6 Comments »

  1. you are wrong

    Comment by Zach — March 19, 2007 @ 12:13 am

  2. Yes, terribly, terribly wrong. Wrong!

    Comment by God — October 30, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  3. In one part, you said “…one period after the space.” :P

    Comment by BP — November 15, 2007 @ 1:52 pm

  4. You are right about the spacing after a period. However, the APA, used for medical papers, always did require one space after the period at the end of a sentence, even back when the MLA, used for technical papers, mandated two spaces.

    In your 5th paragraph, did you mean to write: “All professionally typeset pieces have one space after the period?” The sentence reads “…one period after the space.” Do professional typesetters work backwards?

    When reading technical papers, I still have a problem, even with Microsoft Word, seeing the beginning of a new sentence with only one space after a period when the preceding sentence ends with some abbreviation.

    Comment by Paul — December 6, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

  5. You need to get this message out. I’m tired of arguing with the two spacers. One is all that is needed.

    Comment by Tom — August 29, 2008 @ 10:16 pm

  6. Paul, BP,
    Thanks for pointing out that goofy sentence. I’ve fixed it!
    Mike

    Comment by Mike Smart — October 25, 2008 @ 9:19 am

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