One space or two after a sentence?

May 7, 2018 • 10:00 am

I have arrived in Paris, the weather is gorgeous, and I look forward to reacquainting myself with what I consider the world’s most beautiful city. If I had a gazillion dollars, I’d buy myself a pied-à-terre in the Sixth Arrondissement, near where I lived for six months in 1989-1990, but overlooking the Seine and the Louvre.

But we have more important issues to consider: when typing, do we use one space or two between sentences?

I use two, as that’s the way I was taught in 10th-grade typing class (an alternative to “shop”—woodshop—and a choice I’ve never regretted). But there’s a bitter argument about this issue, and no strong consensus. I will use one space between sentences in this first paragraph.

Now two spaces in this one.  The Washington Post has an article about this kerfuffle (click on screenshot).  Its answer, which purports to be “scientific” is “TWO SPACES AFTER A SENTENCE!”

(One space). Science? How could it do that? Well, the Post reports on an article that tested reading ease with different spaces. Here’s the result:

The researchers then clamped each student’s head into place, and used an Eyelink 1000 to record where they looked as they silently read 20 paragraphs. The paragraphs were written in various styles: one-spaced, two-spaced,  and strange combinations like two spaces after commas,  but only one after periods.  And vice versa, too.

And the verdict was: two spaces after the period is better.  It makes reading slightly easier.  Congratulations, Yale University professor Nicholas A. Christakis.  Sorry, Lifehacker.

Christakis’s tweet (remember him?) pushing the two-space approach:

But it’s not that clear-cut!:

Actually, Lifehacker’s one-space purist Nick Douglas pointed out some important caveats to the study’s conclusion.

Most notably, the test subjects read paragraphs in Courier New, a fixed-width font similar to the old typewriters, and rarely used on modern computers.

Johnson, one of the authors, told Douglas that the fixed-width font was standard for eye-tracking tests, and the benefits of two-spacing should carry over to any modern font.

Douglas found more solace in the fact that the benefits of two-spacing, as described in the study, appear to be very minor.

Reading speed only improved marginally, the paper found, and only for the 21 “two-spacers,” who naturally typed with two spaces between sentences.  The majority of one-spacers, on the other hand, read at pretty much the same speed either way.  And reading comprehension was unaffected for everyone, regardless of how many spaces followed a period.

The major reason to use two spaces, the researchers wrote, was to make the reading process smoother, not faster.  Everyone tended to spend fewer milliseconds staring at periods when a little extra blank space followed it.

(Putting two spaces after a comma,  if you’re wondering,  slowed down reading speed,  so don’t do that.)

(One space.) Amusingly, the authors report that they submitted their paper to the journal with two spaces between sentences. The journal changed every one to a single space.

(Two spaces.)  The article is below.  I haven’t downloaded it as I’m at O’Hare writing this, and all you can see is the abstract (which is in Cristakis’s tweet above) but it’s a sign of how venal Springer is that they want $39.95 for a pdf of this article!  Do weigh in below about whether you’re on the one-space or two-space side.


Johnson, R. L. et al. 2018. Are two spaces better than one? The effect of spacing following periods and commas during readingAtten Percept Psychophys. 2018 Apr 24. doi: 10.3758/s13414-018-1527-6. [Epub ahead of print]

Springer, you suck!

190 thoughts on “One space or two after a sentence?

  1. This confirms what I’ve long thought to be the case, at least for myself. Two spaces does make reading smoother for me, even if it isn’t necessarily faster by any significant amount. It feels cleaner and easier to read.

    Of course, once I was in law school, I was forced to move to a single space. I was forced to conform to society’s oppressive single space standard. I was forced to internalize my own oppression. But I have felt freedom, and nobody can take that from me.

    In the end, all of this is probably of little relevance, but I really do prefer two spaces, even if I no longer use them because the habit of single spacing has been drilled into me.

    1. Spaceist!

      Or maybe not. When I read the original news item I tried saving the article twice, with single spacing and then with double spacing.

      I noticed no obvious difficulty in reading either, although the double spacing now seems quaint and old fashioned.

  2. There should be no debate: Two spaces after periods. Mrs. Torrance taught me so 55 years ago and nobody, but nobody, argued about composition with Mrs. Torrance and lived to tell about it.

    1. I also had an english teacher named Mrs Torrance (at EHS), probably not the same. We didn’t do typing with her tho.

      I learned 2 spaces in typing class at the summer school where I learned to type and also from my grammar english teacher at Duke. But I have got lazy typing and so now use only one most of the time. If you sometimes make an error and type a double space between two words and want to search and replace those, double spacing sentences is a problem.

      Another important question: Do you use a capital letter following a colon? I learned to do so, as in: This sentence follows a colon.

      Since Jerry is going to Paris, I remind you that the french precede a colon or question mark by a space. How about that ?

      You aren’t getting down to Lyon, are you? (Difficult these days with all the train strikes. Thank you, Mr Macron.)

      1. Spaces: I’ve always used just the one. Nobody told me any different. Too old to change now, even if I thought it worth bothering with.

        Capitals after colons: never in British English, to my knowledge. It seems to be getting more common in US English, and from your comment it seems that people are actually taught it, although I don’t understand why. And to me it still looks very odd!

            1. And… if you really want to “Stick it to The Man” woman? computer? you can put in strings of periods with spaces in between paragraphs, set in 6 point light grey. Just because you can. 😀

          1. I believe such indentations were another typewriter holdover. Once proper inter-paragraph spacing was implemented, there is no need for an indentation to tell the reader where the paragraph starts.

            1. Nope. I grew up using typewriters; there never was a need, so that can’t be the answer. Hit carriage return twice and you have exactly what we have now – paragraphs separated by one line of blank text.

              So what happened? I think maybe it’s because “tab” doesn’t work uniformly on all inter tube pages so people abandoned the indent altogether?

              1. Nope back at you. Indenting was an alternative to adding a blank line between paragraphs. If you double space a document, there would be way too much wasted space if blank lines are used to separate paragraphs.

              2. The “nope” was in ref to your claim that there was a “need”. You just confirmed my nope. Thanks!

              3. «I think maybe it’s because “tab” doesn’t work uniformly on all inter tube pages so people abandoned the indent altogether?»

                On the net (HTML pages in general) it actually works quite consistently: you don’t see it at all, except in some very specific cases (like pieces of text formatted as “code”, or pages where basic rendering rules are specifically overwritten via CSS formatting or some other way).

                In HTML (which is what you have in any of those “inter tube pages”), tabs normally either aren’t rendered at all or appear as one space, depending on the browser. In fact, that’s the case not only for tabs but for most “blank space” characters. Additionally, no matter how many such “blank chars” you use in the “source”, in the rendering of the page they’re all condensed to one space. And this includes the “space” character – with the effect that even though you put two spaces at the end of a sentence, you’ll only *see* one.

                There are two notable exceptions to this general rule (at least as far as common stuff goes). One are special characters which are rendered as such, without “condensing” multiple instances of them (e.g., “non breaking space” nbsp). The other, the formatting as “code” I mentioned before, where text is generally rendered in a monospaced font like Courier or Lucida Console (all spacing is shown as-is, and tabs are mostly rendered as 8 spaces, respecting the old pre-WWW convention).

                Now, where tab doesn’t work consistently is in word-processor files (Word, OpenOffice etc.) – and that mostly because you can redefine the tab(s) at any point in a document. (And, as aside, using tabs in word processing is a holdover from typewriters. Not only have there been paragraph-formatting and -separation settings independent of tab settings from the times when DOS word-processors, but it’s both easier and more useful to use the appropriate paragraph settings – with the additional benefit of being able to redefine them as you need for a whole document, without having to bother with manual formatting of each paragraph in part.)

            2. «I believe such indentations were another typewriter holdover.»

              Not quite. Indentation and spacing between paragraphs are as old as typography, and whether one or the other (or even both, in some cases) is used to separate paragraphs is largely a matter of convention and style.

              1. They are older than typography. I didn’t say they were invented in the typewriter era. I meant that they were carried through as a behavior from the typewriter era to the modern computer era.

      2. My editor for fiction fights me hard on standards, and I am thankful. She also has a short list of options that she leaves up to my style choice “as long as you are consistent.”

        Capitals after colons is one. I chose “no” because of the implication of the colon, very similar to the semi-colon, that the two elements are interdependent and mutally reflexive, psychologically. A capital letter following a colon breaks that.

        1. I follow a colon with a capital. The point of the colon (to me) is to emphasize the what follows and the capital further sets it off.

          (I follow much of what I read in The Elements of Style and On Writing well.)

          1. Hi jbblilie, I was always a fan of The Elements of Style, but have switched authority to The Chicago Manual of Style, which my editor favors.

            CMofS says no capital letter after a colon or semi-colon.

    2. I had one of those teachers as well, but her name was Mrs.Purkhiser. I remember her well, and use two spaces. This did cause me some problems when I worked on an environmental impact statement where the editor decreed one space.

  3. To my mind, using two spaces aids in comprehension and, sometimes, helps to avoid confusion. In any case, typewriters have nothing to do with the change.

    Here’s a link to a definitive discussion:

    Wherein: “[T]he double-space is a tradition that abruptly faded not so long ago—certainly within the lifetimes of many of today’s active writers. Though no longer in standard use, the emspace may be a simple sacrifice to industry. Given that context, along with the facts that typewriters and digital typography are largely irrelevant to the discussion, it becomes difficult to argue that the double-space is simply “wrong.” It’s not difficult to imagine that typographers and readers once looked upon those gaps as welcome sentence separators. Designers who wish to produce authentic historicist work should consider using the double-space after a period.

    “Your typesetter will remove double-spaces from your manuscript; that’s a simple fact. Though writers are encouraged to unlearn the double-space typing habit, they may be heartened to learn that intellectual arguments against the old style are mostly contrived. At worst, the wide space after a period is a victim of fashion.”

  4. The one L lama, he’s a priest
    The two L llama, he’s a beast
    And I’ll bet a silk pajama
    There isn’t any three L lllama.

    Maybe 3 spaces is right …

    This is something software should do now. Mine does and inserts an extra space. If there is no extra burden on the typist but reading speeds are enhanced then isn’t that the right answer?

    I too was taught 2 spaces.

  5. Mono-spaced fonts typically use one or two spaces after a period.

    Professionally typeset pieces would typically use variable-width fonts each supplied with its own font metrics in a “look-up table” that can be varied to the taste of the designer. In this case, a single space is always used, and it, too, varies in width based on the font being used.

    Professional design programs like Adobe InDesign have a huge number of variables that can be adjusted to an a la carte taste, but also has its own built-in typesetting intelligence in a “composer” that uses thousands of hours of expertise applied to every situation in each particular font.

    So… professionally…. always one space.

    1. “So… professionally…. always one space.”

      Yes. And I have to *remove* such variable spaces from MS Word documents from folk who use two spaces, or sometimes one *and* two in the same.

      But still not as bad as those who use multiple tabs- instead of setting one- to make it visually pleasing to them. Have to remove and replace them, also.

      1. For some reason this would really niggle me. Dammit, if I use two spaces (actually, I use three) after a full stop, that’s surely my choice and nobody else has any business altering what I wrote.

        (I know perfectly well that HTML does its own thing with word separations anyway, but that’s another issue).


      2. Two spaces after a period should be simple to fix using a global find/replace. If one wanted to perform such a sacrilege. 🙂

    2. Indeed – years ago I knew a lot of people in publishing and they would tell you that kerning (the spacing between characters) is relative to the font(s) involved.

  6. Call me stodgy, but I always have and will continue to double-space after a period, as I was taught in high school typing class in the pre-computer era.

  7. I use one space because life is short. Otherwise it’s just Gershwinesque tomaytoes-tomahtoes to me. As Groucho told Margaret Dumont over ee-ther/eye-ther: “Skip it.”

  8. Typesetters have been using one space for centuries. The practice of using two spaces only arose with typewriter fonts that are not proportionally spaced, and two spaces probably does have some utility there.

    Unfortunately, the study in the article used a monospaced font. Its results are therefor useless as far as reading the text on this web site is concerned.

      1. Agreed. The observation that monospace typefaces are stand in eye-tracking experiments really misses the point. The researchers should investigate the use of different numbers of spaces with a variety of different typefaces, monos paced v. proportional, serif v. sans, and so on.


        1. Perzackly. I was taught two spaces in the pre-computer monospaced font days. When word processing came in, with proportionally-spaced fonts (unless you were using Courier 😉 ), it was explained to me that it was no longer necessary to use two spaces for legibility. I’ve used one space ever since.

          Does anyone else remember when Bloom County made this into a campaign wedge issue?

          Oct. 1, 2015.
          Oct. 2, 2015.
          Oct. 3, 2015.
          Oct. 4, 2015.

  9. I second Jeremy’s take as being spot on. We used to do all kinds of odd things typographically. Read any of Churchill’s books and you will find spaces before commas and colons. Colons had two spaces after them at one time.

    Robin Williams wrote a nice little book (I think the title was The Mac is Not a Typewriter) that laid out much of the sea change that happened when electronic typesetting became available to all.

  10. Spacing in a digital font between all characters, including punctuation, is determined by the typeface designer, so it will be different for each typeface. In variable-width fonts, which is what most people use, there is a complex set of rules accompanying the typeface that sets varying distances between particular character combinations.

    Double spaces after a period ignores the designer’s intent, and usually makes a block of text look uneven. Respect the designer. And don’t use Courier, it’s hard to read no matter how many spaces you add.

    1. There is no “Respect the designer.” Nor respect for typesetter, journalists, writer, proofreader, videographer or anything else that computer-usage has devalued.

      Now, we are all supposed to be “experts” in all of it, and we simply are not.

  11. If the test used Courier, then of course it’s going to replicate the reason why people were taught to use two spaces when typing in the first place. The point is that in modern computer applications optimized for text, just as in typesetting for hundreds of years, text is kerned proportionally so that the reason for needing two spaces evaporates. Pick up any published book and take a look. You won’t fit a double space anywhere.

    1. Well it depends. I have plenty of books that have wide spacing after the ends of sentences. They are, generally speaking books published in English before WWII. Books published in French in that same period have tighter spacing between sentences. French typesetters preferred a more uniform page appearance.

      I’ve noticed that many books published during WWII stand out for particularly narrow gutters and margins and the disappearance of wide spacing, as publishers were trying to save paper. After WWII, though page layouts became somewhat more relaxed, there was not a return to the white space seen before the war.

  12. I, too, learned two-spacing in a typing class in my youth, but in adulthood I became a convert to one-spacing. The page looks neater to me.

    But I also took the woodshop classes, which were probably of more lifelong benefit than any other subject! I still use those skills every day.

    1. Interesting all the people that were taught in their younger days to two-space. I have never heard of this “debate” until reading this posting by Jerry. I learned typing in a mandatory class in 7th grade and we were taught to use 1 space between sentences.

      I hated taking typing class and couldn’t imagine it would ever be useful. I don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong about something. It became useful almost immediately as within about a year I started messing around with the awesomely powerful TI-16 home computer which had a massive 16 KB of total memory for you to use as you willed.

  13. I’ve converted to one space with proportionally spaced fonts. The study was flawed by only measuring responses with a monospaced font.

  14. The thing that annoyed me about this is that it used a typewriter style font and found (marginally) better results for the typewriter approach. Would be more interesting to use a commonly used computer font and see what happens – than also to compare the two font types.

    Would also be good to see the differences between serif and sans-serif fonts. Never figured out why NIH wants grants written in Arial and the DOD wants them in TNR, but I know which I prefer when reading blocks of text

    1. I much prefer a sans-serif font for most purposes (like reading this webpage). With books it’s maybe a little different since – out of habit mostly I guess – one expects a serif font.

      But sans-serif fixed-space (e.g Courier) always for computer program listings! Not least because indentation gets screwed up right royally with a proportional font.


      1. There are some fonts designed specifically for computer listings and programming. They are monospaced fonts, of course, but they have lots of other nice features, such as easier-to-distinguish capital O and zero 0. I use Microsoft’s Andale Mono.

  15. If we all use only a single space between sentences, what will happen to all the leftover, unemployed, spaces?


  16. I’m not sure which fallacy to cite for the study, but it should be a humiliating one. ”

    I was also taught two spaces, back before digital anything. Fine. Correct. Why? “Typewriters” are mono-spaced. The tech forced two spaces for clarity.

    It is shameful to conduct this “scientific” study using a mono-spaced font and declare that two-space is better, when no newspaper, no book, no high-school paper, no blog, no website, no video game – no nothing – engages monotype.

    Exception: blogs/ads etc. that deliberately seek to evoke the nostalgia of old-school. Go ahead, use two spaces.

    This debate is not hot. All serious professionals long ago saw the reason for two in the past, and the reason to let go once the digital revolution arrived.

    Two spaces after a sentence using beautifully variable typeface looks ridiculous.

  17. For me, two spaces are definitely easier to read. I find it makes little difference if fonts are proportionally spaced.

  18. I use two spaces out of habit, but I suspect that it also helps me order my thoughts better. There is something satisfyingly final about double tapping the space bar.

    Modern fonts use spaces of varying width depending on which glyphs surround them, so in practice typing a single space already produces an apropriate visual gap. Using two spaces in this situation can sometimes produce *three* spaces of gap, which is why it is discouraged.

    1. Note that HTML filters out double spaces, so its actually impossible to write with double spaces in the blog posts or comments. (Without falling back to special characters such as &nbsp)

      1. This is what I was going to point out. Not only typesetters and font designers, but web browsers as well specify one space.

        This sentence is followed by five spaces. Now how’s that look?

  19. One. Also, metre and kilogram.

    People cannot even be bothered to use the correct dashes and quotation marks. Conventions to improve legibility is best left to typography and automatic typesettings.

  20. Wow, we might have lived in Paris at the same time. I spent the summer of 1989 in Paris, but I lived over in the 16th near the Bois de Bologne. I was kept pretty busy and didn’t have a lot of time for left bank slumming.

    Definitely one space. Why do the extra work?

  21. I use three. But HTML does its own spacing anyway.

    I was going to say (before I even read it in the post) that a lot depends on whether it’s a fixed-space or proportional font.

    But I was quite unaware that there was a rule about it.


  22. I also learned two-spacing in typing class and have used it since. I didn’t realize ’till now it was such an important controversial issue.

  23. I’m not bothered either way so long as it’s NOT in Comic Sans MS! My main gripes are:

    ** Too small a font in physical books & newspapers – I’m at that age where I need 14pt, even with spectacles & strong lighting. I’ve adjusted by using a kindle mostly & I only go to the large format physical books option when there’s illustrations/photos.

    ** Websites with ridiculous use of colour – the many fonts in many colours & sizes. These sites are also usually hard to navigate with tiny arrows to operate the galleries, pages & overloaded with bad code & images to slow everything to a crawl. Here’s an example of a too long front page train wreck from YALE SCHOOL OF ART … The usual suspects are designers, artists, upmarket restaurants, conspiracy sites & religious loons

          1. As to “People right now do not understand what they’re actually giving up,” I must say
            the current usage of “pet” replacing “petted” annoys me greatly.

    1. !

      Now click on ‘View source’…

      Incidentally –
      “This HTML generated dynamically by Economy, a content management system built in Ruby on Rails”

      ‘Economy’? A lovely name for it.


    2. I agree the site is a mess. But when you try to read the text, you can. As I type this reply, the characters are light gray against a light beige background — almost unreadable for my old eyes. And that is true for very many web sites.

      Computers are supposed to promote access, but I have yet to see anybody but myself rant about the too-light-text problem.

      1. If you use the Chrome browser, you may be interested in the “High Contrast” plugin. It allows one to choose a number of ways to make a web page more readable.

        Another one I find handy is Narrower which artificially narrows the page width, forcing the text to reflow into narrower, more readable columns. Works great with Wikipedia.

      2. I agree, though the font colour is actually a muddy maroon to match the WEIT site theme of reds & browns. See here blown up:
        A useful option built into most browsers is to force a minimum font size [“Options” > “Content” > “Fonts & Colours” in Waterfox & Firefox] it works well if you don’t go crazy with the setting. You can also force black as the font colour although this can cause problems on other sites with black etc backgrounds.

        1. Thanks for the tips. Actually, I can fairly easily read the posts on this site. But the when I type in the “Comment” box to make a post myself, the characters are grey and VERY light. It’s easier to type my comment in a text editor and then copy that to the site.

    3. These people call themselves Designers?

      Good lord, have they ever viewed any good design (of anything, I mean anything)? Know any history of design?

  24. I am a one-spacer myself but don’t feel especially strongly. When I did my degree (Journalism) we were told that either were OK, and I have always used the single space. Incidentally, when I am creating documents for printing (as opposed to blog posts or comments thereon) I tend to use a sans-serif font, usually Arial Black for titles and headings and a serif font, Times New Roman foir preference for body text.

  25. Why is this even an issue? Users enter information. Software should adjust spacing for optimum readability. That’s why HTML has a hard space code (let’s see if this renders correctly in wordpress  )

    Heck before long whatever you’re reading will detect how spacing is affecting your reading speed and will adjust on the fly.

      1. We can also manage to read stuff that is upside down, backwards, or misspelled (autocorrect or failure to proofread.) But why would we want to, if legibility is the key?

        1. Oddly enough, I found I can read stuff that is upside down quite easily, and much more easily than I can read stuff that is backwards (as in the back of some notice pasted on a window with the light shining through it).

          I don’t know if this is common to most people or why this is.


  26. I switched from two spaces to one when I switched away from Courier, for the reasons typesetters have understood for a hundred years. Besides, using a single space means one thing fewer that I am likely to screw up.

  27. One space for variable-width fonts, two for monospace fonts.
    Moreover, for aspects like flexible spacing and word wrapping, professional typesetting will treat a full stop differently than an inter-sentence period used for abbreviations like Prof. Dr. CC(E).

    It boggles the mind how a finding from a monospace-only study could be claimed as applying to variable-width fonts as well. The two are fundamentally different.

  28. It boggles my mind to think that someone would study reading comprehension and sentence spacing but use a monospaced (fixed-width) font. I guess that duplicates old typewriters’ text but who uses them any more?

    Sentence spacing has a long, complicated history. Wikipedia has several pages devoted to the subject:

    With digital display of text, there are so many factors involved: what was typed by the author, what gets stored in the document, how characters are handled in HTML or other document representation, the viewing system’s font display engine, the particular fonts installed on the viewing system, the font design, users’ display settings, etc. I ran a software company that specializes in formatting mathematical equations. Dealing with all these things is a nightmare. Or at least it was a source of nightmares for me.

  29. It’s all white privilege

    Sorry couldn’t help it.

    Oh also – I want to know if Paris has “American” food – so cheeseburgers, fries… um… milkshakes….

    1. Paris has MacDonalds, KFC and Burger King. And probably Subway as well.

      So does Moscow.

      You gave the Russians KFC and they gave you President Trump. Not sure who’s the biggest loser out of that exchange 😉


      1. I mean you go in the restaurant and they have menu items that are deliberately United States style

        So maybe
        BBQ pulled pork
        Blue Cheese Buffalo Wings
        Smoked brisket
        Little neck clams

        It’d be interesting to know

        1. Ah, I can’t comment on that. I very much doubt, though, that any french restaurant would carry menu items like that unless they were a ‘themed’ restaurant, which is, of course, a possibility.


    2. I once sought out Vietnamese food in Paris. I wanted to see if it tasted different than Vietnamese food in Little Saigon in Orange County, CA. They were pretty much the same.

      On a different trip to Paris, we met some friends of Vietnamese heritage who live there and they took us to a really, really good Vietnamese place in Paris.

      Then there’s French food of course.

      1. On the other hand, I had Vietnamese food in Aarhus, Denmark. That *was* a bit different than the Vietnamese restaurants I’ve been to in Canada and the US. Danes are often locavores, I was told, so maybe that explains it.

        1. I suspect some differences could be found in Paris as well but it wasn’t a scientific study. It is all good though. I’m really looking forward to all the good restaurant tips we’ll get from the Professor this week.

          1. Indeed. Personally I am not one to worry about “authenticity” – just: is it tasty, affordable relative to my budget, and healthy enough relative to my lifestyle. (And no human, haggis or fugu!)

  30. Vindicated!

    And there’s another aspect – I suspect that two spaces may help the thought process of writing on the keyboard. For me, anyway, I think the two spaces help to clear the head of the last sentence and go forth with the next.

    But this is just my hypothesis (which is mine) for someone else to figure a way to test experimentally.

    1. There’s an argument that if you really want to remember something you should write it in longhand with a pen and paper rather than type it. A few lecturers (I understand) insist that lecture notes are handwritten for this reason.

  31. Interesting article. There seems to be a lot of misinformation about the history of sentence spacing out there, though.

    I found to be a useful resource on dispelling the myth that typewriters introduced double spacing (or that monospaced fonts were a driver) and sentence spacing in general. You can also look up on Wikipedia wi( for more citations for the history.

    I was surprised that widespread single spacing is a somewhat recent trend (in that it changed in the 20th century and was wider before that). The controversy section of Wikipedia also has a good overview.

    I don’t think I usually notice sentence spacing, though. I usually type two spaces out of habit, but don’t have a strong preference one way or the other.

  32. When I learned to type in the 90s (Junior High) it was double space between sentences, but on modern word processing software it doesn’t seem to matter. Had to learn some DOS commands because the computers at school didn’t have a fancy GUI like the windows 3.0 machine my dad put together.

    I still reflexively double space if I’m not thinking about it.

  33. Two spaces because I learned it that way and because when texting on my iPhone, two spaces automatically adds a period so I don’t have to hunt for it.

  34. I use one space after a sentence. I think that’s enough and that is also what the majority of people probably use, although I don’t know any statistics on the subject, nor do I care to know. Something of such minor significance is, hopefully, only of concern to grammatical scholars and teachers. As far as the proper use of grammar goes, I am more upset with the lack of basic knowledge of the usage of more everyday terms and grammar. I hate seeing people write to or too when they mean two, or there for they’re or their. If we are to ever have any hope of changing the minds of the majority that aren’t concerned with learning and knowledge, we have to repair the broken curriculum in our schools, and keep religion and politics away from educators and education. We need more people who can think for themselves than those who follow blindly the mindset of friends and family without ever questioning the legitimacy of that mindset.

  35. When using Microsoft WORD or LibreOffice, my practice is to:

    1) justify the right margin as well as the left
    2) Go for one space between sentences.

    Item #1 tends to usually increase the space between sentences automatically, in a way that enhances readability.

    1. Fully justified text looks good in a wide column but not in a narrow column as you get too much variation in spacing. There was a study that showed that narrow columns are easier to read. I certainly find that to be the case. It is also probably why newspapers use narrow columns.

      1. There must be optimum width, because too narrow columns with 1 or 2 words per row are more difficult to read. There may be room for a thesis determining the optimum.

        1. Here is a typical WIKI PAGE where each line has far too many characters for comfort. There a quite a few web sites that make text lines far too long. The human eye/brain likes to scan 55 to 75 characters [say 10 words] before switching to a new line. A line switch refreshes the eye/brain concentration level. You’ll note that WEIT respects this width range by having sidebars to each side.

          Online the most annoying reading I’ve seen is of Amazon books preview pages where the original hard copy was in two columns per page, but online we are obliged to skip down a column & then back up to read the second column on the same page. A lot of science papers online suffer from this annoyance! Nobody seems to have solved the problem of making a truly dynamic layout that fits well across the various media from smartphone to widescreen.

          With a physical newspaper I like 3 or 5 long columns – great for reading in the cafe or train – the fine art of wrangling a publication into submission so I can get on with the important business of the cryptic crossword.

          1. I know what you mean about too-wide columns but it’s a bit unfair to blame the website. You are supposed to adjust the window size and the text column width will adjust accordingly. Of course, many people like to manage their screen space by maximizing all the windows to fit their entire monitor and then flipping between them. Since many of us have big monitors, this results in too-wide text columns. Which is why I use the Narrower plugin to fool the web page into thinking the window is narrower.

            1. Excuse me! 🙂

              I CAN blame the website if I choose. You say we are “supposed to” adjust our screens to suit the application & I reply with a sturdy “no, I’m not fiddling with all these screen requirements, because developers don’t get with the program”

              As you’ve suggested, I have a widescreen with all screens maximised & I flip between browser, NetFlix, TV, PC, poker, & LibreOffice with Alt+Tab. The internets delivered to us poor consumers is pretty dumb & it requires skillz to maximise ones experience. The handling of blocks of text is poor – all those designers concentrating on WoW & 3D bollix, when we still can’t have a fluid text, video, photo, illustration, audio experience adjusting to output.

              It’s an architectural problem – the nerds who designed the nets have done a crap job with respect to the front end – the front end is limited by the format of material sent to it [say a capture of a two-column page] & the ‘intelligence’ of the auto formatting for any given format.

              We need an intelligent front end that knows how to arrange all the elements [to suit user requirements/needs]. Plugins are essential for an internetz user, but they’re inflexible – the ease they deliver HERE causes a problem over THERE.

              1. Hey, I was just offering why things are the way they are. I agree that things are not ideal. My solution is to use the plugin but there are other solutions. Of course you are free to blame whoever you want. I only point out that the website designer is stuck between a rock and a hard place. You and I may run our browsers and other apps full-screen but others do not. If the website designer tries to appeal to us, they’ll undoubtedly piss off others. As is often the case in this complex world, competing interests lead to non-optimal solutions.

              2. Of course & we ain’t disagreeing. I want more ‘flow’ – the language of web developers is an arcane art from the outside & their priorities [& those of their employers] are a bad fit with what’s required. Designing a web presence should [by now] be as easy as building a Lego house – utterly intuitive.

                My criterion is little, old ladies should be able to do it, & their banking, & their shopping & their grandkids photo-sharing without encountering all the traps in wait for them. Using the net from a standing start safely is approaching the difficulty of a higher education & it hasn’t got easier with all the thingimebobs such as biometrics.

                I recall my elderly neighbour Betty, now deceased, who wanted the independence of the net when she fell out with help & daughter. I got her the old iPad & it wasn’t until then that I realised how difficult it is to grok the objects on the screen.

                This is resident on your device
                This is your bank balance from outside
                This is Terry & June comedy golden moments
                This is email & oh look there’s Kate your daughter 4th message down

                blah blah

                It’s a new language that you’re best growing into

              3. Actually, there are many, many website-building apps that make it very easy to create a web presence these days. They provide templates specific to each industry and business type. All one has to do is pay a small amount of money, choose a template, and fill it with one’s own text and graphics. It will tend to look like a generic website unless the person is really creative but it will work just fine.

              4. Since Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) was introduced, there’s been no reason for line length in a webpage to depend on the width of the browser window. It’s very much something the web designer should take responsibility for along with other elements of user experience (UX).

                Wikiwand provides a fix for Wikipedia.


              5. Of course it is POSSIBLE to do virtually anything with text using CSS but a website design that doesn’t size text column width with respect to the browser window would just get a different group of people whining that they had done it wrong.

        2. Ironically, from my perspective, ARS TECHNICA have weighed in with a piece called “Two spaces after period are better than one, except maybe they aren’t, study finds” in a format around 80 characters wide…

        3. I believe the study did suggest an optimum though it undoubtedly depends on the person, the font, the line spacing, and perhaps even the content. As usual, Wikipedia is a good place to start on the research: When I use the Narrower Chrome plugin to adjust column width, I just eyeball it. It’s not really that critical anyway. More a matter of comfort.

  36. Johnson, one of the authors, told Douglas that the fixed-width font was standard for eye-tracking tests, and the benefits of two-spacing should carry over to any modern font.

    Yeah? So show us. Increased use of proportional fonts is exactly what’s led to use of a single space between sentences. We already knew that two spaces was preferable with monospace fonts.

  37. One space, always. Two is untidy.

    “it’s a sign of how venal Springer is that they want $39.95 for a pdf of this article!”


  38. I think it’s time to compromise. Alternate between using one space and two spaces after each sentence. The only question is whether to use one or two spaces after the first use. I’m opting for one space on first use. Okay? ?

  39. I prefer one space, because I’ve realized that (to quote Matt Groening’s pre-Simpsons comic, Life in Hell) “Everything you’ve been taught is a lie.”

    Actually, it’s because of the proportional font argument (not considered in the study) and mostly because it’s easier to proofread for extra spaces.

  40. Taking grade 9 typing was the best move I ever made(literally) despite the fact my friends laughed at me and then years later would ask me to type their work for them. GET REAL!

  41. Somebody’s probably already said this, but it’s two spaces if you’re using a typewriter and one space if you’re using a word processor.

  42. As has been pointed out, two spaces is a hangover from the days of monospaced typefaces. We now all use nice variable width typefaces and, like proper manual typesetters, we shouldn’t use two spaces. Rather, we should let the typesetter use the spacing appropriate to the typeface, kerning, etc.

    My rule is that you never, ever, stab the same key twice in succession other than for repeated letters, such as those in succession. That goes for spaces, tabs, line feeds, returns and any other malarkey where the user can’t be bothered to use the tools they have to lay things out properly.

  43. Why not take wood shop and typing? Wood shop and metal shop were required for boys in my Jr High School in the early 50’s. Later in high school I took a course in machine shop.
    I have never regretted learning how to use a lathe or a keyboard.

  44. Like so many others here, I learned the skill, complete with two spaces, in high school.

    My wife refused to take it in high school for fear that she would be stuck in a clerical job… Those were the days when “typist” was a job! To this day she scoots along as a two-finger typist.

    1. I met a woman who typed 55 words a minute, on a manual typewriter, using two fingers of each hand. She was my father’s secretary.

    2. My mother, a hoss typist herself, wanted me to take typing, not only for the skill itself, but to have sort of control over my MOS (military occupational specialty) destiny should I have gotten drafted during the Vietnam quagmire. I was therefore quite motivated to become, and became and remain, a quite respectable typist.

    3. I remember being forced (by my parents) to take typing in 10th grade, thinking it was like shop or home ec – i.e. put in the program only for the kids who weren’t going to college.

      Boy, was I wrong. About all of them. 🙂

  45. Two for dyslexia, but I don’t notice. I think most scientific articles have only one and I know my LaTeX defaults to one, even if I write two on the .tex file.

  46. Spent most of my life as a typesetter, starting in the early 70s. Back then, newspapers used columns that were justified (flush left and right), so the double space would cause a small indent, which could appear at either side of the column, if the period ended the line.

  47. As a German I’m used to only one space. As far as I know there never was a double space rule here.

  48. Next up: what should a downward motion on a trackpad do, scroll toward the bottom of the page or the top? Seems obvious, but it’s confusing to Millenials.

  49. Two spaces all the way. Serif fonts, all the way. These things make reading easier.

    And probably because I learned on a type writer. 🙂

  50. I was also taught two spaces after a sentence. I was also taught that you can and should distinguish adjectives from adverbs by using the “-ly” suffix. Both usages seem to be rapidly disappearing from at least American English. Language evolves. Shit happens.

  51. Ever since we got computers with proportional spacing, it’s been one space. I operated a print shop for 20 years… and I’m still fixing copy sent in with two spaces as I do newsletters as a volunteer. I used to think it was only old people (and I’m old) that used two, but where do these kids (anyone under 60) who know nothing about correct-type, typewriter erasers and slamming a carriage return get the idea to use two?

  52. I haven’t read every one of the (currently) 109 comments; perhaps someone has already said it: two spaces is what I was taught, and, it seems reasonable enough that two spaces should separate sentences, just as two lines of space reasonably ought to separate paragraphs. (I put two spaces after the above semicolon and colon. I gather that that is correct. I’m too lazy to retrieve my Harbrace College Handbook from yesteryear. I’m glad I was not an English grad student, putting myself through the torture of grading papers and writing in the margin the likes of “6.II.3(b).”)

  53. I got into the practice of using two spaces after a full stop (i.e., period). Then I wrote a few textbooks ant the publisher prohibited two spaces. Only one space — and let the typesetters deal with the matter.
    My input here is in Courier so two spaces after the period look sensible. But I don’t really know what WordPress will do with them.

    1. Sorry — “and” not “ant”. And WordPress seems to have thrown out the second space.

      1. It’s an HTML standard to collapse multiple spaces into one. There are some tags – code and tt if I remember correctly – that preserve them, to allow you to emulate, e.g., lines of code.

        Otherwise, you have to insert a non-breaking space (nbsp) every time.


  54. Slightly more space between sentences is fine by me. Whether that’s one click of the space bar or two depends on the font and program, AIUI. So rather than an absolutist one or absolutist two, how about ‘use your brain and eyes to make the decision.’ I know, crazy right? Telling people to use their brains than mindlessly follow a rule? Madness, sheer madness!

    1. Not really – except on an individual personal level. But if you’re submitting your material to another party who is publishing it, you’d be wise to follow their style guides if you want repeat business. There is no universal standard so it pays you to adapt to the environment.

  55. Two space is easier to read, but there’s something aesthetically repulsive about looking at it, so I’m going too agree with it but make all my sentences just one big run-on sentence, so that way I won’t be forced to make the decision for myself – that way I’ll leave it ambiguous where I stand on the issue and ensure that no-one bothers to read my unwieldy musings that to my mind were perfectly find when they were punctuated with periods because the dense paragraphs would be broken up into shorter sentences that would each justify the greater paragraph (or so it seems to me in my head) even though I doubt it’s ever improved my readability as writing in 4-5 sentence paragraphs was something that was drilled into me in school but doesn’t really fit with the writing style of those expert communicators, the journalists, who keep it short and sharp and constrain a paragraph to, at most, two sentences.

      1. In french, there’s actually one space before a colon, a semi-colon, a question mark or exclamation mark, but not before a comma or a dot.
        The “rule” is that punctuation with two elements (colon = 2 dots) should have a space before.

  56. I was taught to use two and so I am used to it. But modern usage is one and I find it works better in formats such as WP. So now I find myself in limbo – even within a single paragraph. Sometimes one, sometimes two ( and never two after a comma).

  57. I’m on the two space side.

    I don’t think that the number of spaces make any difference in reading speed. Expert readers don’t even read every word in a sentence let alone every letter in a word. Words (and often long phrases) are recognised automatically as discrete objects, which aren’t mentally vocalised – they perform the same function as characters in Chinese script.

    1. To challenge that …

      The only reason it seems you recognize words as a discrete object is because you once decoded it letter by letter phonetically. Now, when you encounter it, the decoding happens so fast, it gives the illusion of being hanzi.

      Just ask anyone inflicted with reading taught as “whole language” who didn’t pick up phonics along the way.

  58. 0 spaces between letters in a word.
    1 space between words in a sentence.
    2 spaces between sentences in a paragraph.

    That is a logical pattern.

  59. Two spaces is correct. Also the toilet paper should go over the roll not under you barbarian.

  60. Two for me mostly – but that sometimes is difficult when I do our library ‘blog’ (not website!) as WordPress does not seem to like it …

  61. There were some old typists in UK who were taught: 3 after full stop; 2 after colon or semi-colon and 1 after comma. It may have helped legibility on the 5th or even 7th carbon copy!

  62. I was thought that 2 špaček was lux hry. Only for offician document.
    What Í find most annoying is a spellchecker that s withches to another language unasked for. My tablet eg. s withches to Čeština (Czech) osmažíme. You get the pointu.

    For one reason or other I only have US English, Català, Čeština and Deutsch. Why just those four? A Great Mystery.

    And I hate proportional spacing, much more of a problem then one or two species (we all understand very we’ll (well) that should have been ‘spaces’, of course).

  63. I work in publishing, and whenever someone sends me an email or a manuscript with two spaces after the period, I gnash my teeth. The spaces between sentences look like interminable wastelands, huge gaping voids where I become lost in a desert of blankness. Also, I know instantly that author is my age or older.

    When I went to high school back in the mid-nineties (I’m forty now), I was taught that a sentence should end with two spaces after the period. I’m guessing that I was one of the last people who learned that rule. In my twenties, I easily made the switch to one space when I entered the working world and began relying more heavily on email—and I’ve never looked back!

    1. I’m about your age (42 this year) and I was taught it too in grade 7 and 8 typing parts of computing courses. In grade 9 I had learned enough from the typography guys that this was wrong, at least on the new platform we were using.

  64. “British English…US English” – I was about to fume about this. There is after all only the one English. But then I thought “Sod it!” It’s a small price to pay for being able to travel pretty much anywhere in the world and being able to make yourself understood. Provided you speak loudly and slowly, of course.

    1. Funny that you should say “sod it!” – that’s the sort of expression that some people in the US would have trouble understanding (except by the context of an exclamation).

  65. Given the near ubiquity of keyboard use in all but entirely manual jobs, I don’t understand why touch-typing is not taught as a compulsory class to all schoolchildren. I know that many people (myself included) get by fine with ‘hunt and peck’ two fingered typing but it would be undeniably more efficient to be able to type properly and I certainly regret never have learned it.

    1. Yes, I agree. I did have typing class in grade school in the latter half of the 1960s. I didn’t learn it well but I’m still glad I had it. I still hunt and peck a little but use all fingers when I have something substantial to type.

  66. I learned to use two spaces in high school typing class. Probably about 20 years ago, I read a bunch of articles saying that two spaces were just plain wrong. So I retrained myself to use only one space. It wasn’t easy, but I did it! By now, it would just feel too weird to go back to two spaces.

    And I just typed a sentence that included the words to, too, and two!

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