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Two Spaces

Why do people continue to put two spaces after colons, periods, question marks, etc.? Ever since I started my own magazine - and even before then in high school - I have only ever used one. I think that's all that's required. There's no rule that says you should use two anymore, right? I quickly trained myself to use only one space, and I estimate that I've saved a few million keystrokes and bytes (in databases, files, etc). over the years with absolutely no decrease in readability.

14 Responses to "Two Spaces"

  1. I don't know how much of a written rule this is, but as a former English minor, I certainly would never try turning in a paper without following it!

    As an interesting side note, working with a native speaker on the French localization of one of my applications has taught me an interesting thing about French: exclamation marks, colons, and a number of other punctuations are always prefixed by an extra space.

    For example:

    In English!

    En Francais !


    English: English

    Francais : Francais

    So just be thankful you're not French :-).

  2. I minored in French, and have never heard of such a thing, actually…

  3. The double-space rule is still in the MLA and Chicago guides, so I follow it. That could be my four years of journalism interests or my being anal, but either way it's still the rule.

  4. And yet for scientific and technical papers I distinctly remember it being the "rule" that you use only one space. It was the rule at MacAddict and in newspapers that you only use one space, as well as on various yearbooks (HS, college).

  5. I work for a direct marketing (read: mail) agency, and using the Chicago Manual of Style as our guide, we still use two spaces. Supposed to increase readability. Hard habit for me to break -- I still use one space in memos and correspondence, but in our direct mail, it's always two spaces.

  6. I remember reading somewhere that two spaces isn't necessary anymore for those of us using word processors, because the extra spacing was put in there automatically... I sure never use them, but if course TeX ignores most whitespace anyway.

  7. Michael McCracken is correct. The two space rule isn't necessary anymore. It orginated with fixed width fonts (ie: typewriter). Unless you've specifically set the font to fixed width, most regular fonts will stick in a slightly larger space after a period or exclamation mark. Anything or anybody who says that two spaces is still required today is either just wrong (ie: no, shaking your poloroid film does nothing to make it develop faster), or is just using antiquated fonts.

  8. I had three years of French in high school and had never encountered those weird spacing rules either, but apparently it is a well-established French typographical convention (my translator is insisting on it at any rate :-).

    This page, for example, makes reference to it.

    Another interesting thing I learned from the translation process is that the French version of iTunes uses the works "morceaux" ("pieces," or, more directly, "morsels") instead of "chansons" (a more literal translation). Go figure!

    While we're on the subject of annoying grammatical/typographical rules, BTW, does anyone else agree with me that the American practice of including punctuation *inside* quote marks is stupid and counterintuitive? The British practice is to keep them outside.

    So, for example:

    American: My favorite poem is William Blake's "London."

    - vs -

    British: My favorite poem is William Blake's "London".

    Just had to bring that up. 🙂

  9. Separation

    Erik Barzeski asks a question near and dear to my heart. For years now, I've spent many a rant trying,

  10. It Shouldn't Have To Matter

    Erik Barzeski asks why people still put two spaces after a sentence. Eric goaded Nick into insisting they shouldn't. I

  11. The useful aspect to the different British punctuation-quoting rules is that you can still recognize us, even when we write about our favorite colors. Though turn of phrase always seems to give us away long before punctuation does.

    What annoys me is not the existance of a variety of schemes, it's the publishers' insistence on localizing books. I don't want spelling "corrected", I don't want "difficult" words translated, I don't want the flavor of the original diluted and spoiled by turning it into some kind of hybrid work.

    One might just as well shoot movies ostensibly set in the USA over the border in Canada...

  12. Expecting a rant

    Nick hasn't ranted about much recently, but if he doesn't rant about this I'll be very disappointed.

  13. Jeez, how friggin lazy can you get? Does it really get you winded to have to hit the space bar twice, even though your thumb is basically resting on it? As far as the saving file space, what are you you using for a storage medium... a 5 1/4" floppy? The amount of space available in today's drives, whether it's removable or permanent, is massive. I could hit the space bar and hold it down for about 8 years before I'd run out of space on my HD.

    The English language is taking a beating enough without this foolishness. I know, let's get rid of all the spaces.



  14. Funny, I just referenced a Q&A from CMS -- they state: one space after a colon. There is a traditional America practive, favored by some, of leaving two spaces after colons and periods. This practice is discouraged by the University of Chicago Press.