Two space, or not two space?

Most likely in response to yet another client insisting on riddling their pages with holes created by double spaces after their periods, a colleague asked me for advice. In an effort to provide her with some ammunition to help bring down the offending parties, I composed for er the following:


Is there some definitive statement that I can quote these days about NOT putting two spaces after each period in a paragraph? At first I thought it was just those who grew up with typewriters without proportional lettering that had merely developed a habit, but I see it in some things and I would just like to know if there is any basis for routinely hitting the spacebar twice anymore?


“After the period at the end of a sentence or abbreviation, the space should be the normal one used between the words of the line. Only in widely spaced lines is it permitted to leave a larger gap, and in this case, commas and hyphens should be treated the same way (Tschishold, 1937, pp 95–96).”


“In the nineteenth century, which was a dark and inflationary age in typography and type design, many compositors were encouraged to stuff extra space between sentences. Generations of twentieth-century typists were then taught to do the same, by hitting the spacebar twice after every period. Your typing as well an your typesetting will benefit from unlearning this quaint Victorian habit. As a general rule, no more than a single space is required after a period, a colon or any other punctuation. Larger spaces (e.g., en spaces) are themselves punctuation (Bringhurst, 2004, pp 29–30).”


“Words should also be kept at a safe, regular distance from eachother, so that you can rely on the next one to appear when you’re ready for it (Spiekermann, 1993, p. 123).”


“One rule to remember about line space is that it needs to be larger than the space between words, otherwise your eye would be inclined to travel from the word on the first line directly to the word on the line belowWhen the space is correct your eye will first make the journey along one line before it continues on to the next (Spiekermann, 1993, p. 125),”


“The perceptive senses take in shapes which are related together by proximity and contour. We are taught to read our code system horizontally from left to right and it is primarily this ‘conditioning’ that enables the eye to follow badly spaced copy where the interlinear space appears less than that between words. The horizontal left to right movement can clearly be differentiated from the vertical downward movement by keeping the word space to a minimum (Swann, 1969, p. 41).”


“The opening out of lines to create a clear difference between the interlinear gap and the word-spacing is common practice when ease of reading is requited. In this way, the danger of optical bridging between lines is reduced (Hartley, 1978, p. 22).”


“The typewriter tradition of separating sentences with two word spaces after a period has no place in typesetting. The custom began with the characters of monospaced typefaces used on typewriters were so wide and so open that a single word space—one the same width as a character, including the period—was not wide enough to create a sufficient space between the sentences. Proportionately spaced fonts, though, contain word spaces specifically designed to play the sentence-separating role perfectly. Because of this, a double word space at the end of creates an obvious hole in the line (Felici, 2003, p. 80).”

and finally…

“What? you say! Yes—for years you’ve been told to hit two spaces after periods, and on a typewriter, you should. But this is not a typewriter.

On a typewriter, all the characters are monospaced; that is, they each take up the same amount of space—the letter [i] takes up as much space as the letter [m]. Because they are monospaced, you need to type two spaces after periods to separate one sentence from the next. But…

On a Macintosh, (unless you”re using the fonts Monaco or Courier, which are monospaced just like a typewriter and what you would want to use anyway) the characters are proportional; that is, they each take up a proportional amount of space—the letter [i] takes up about one fifth the space as the letter [m]. So you no longer need extra spaces to separate the sentences (Williams, 1990, p. 13),”


Final answer
Unless you are using a monospaced typeface such as Courier, do NOT use two spaces after a period. If the afore mentioned references aren’t not enough to muscle a client into submission, lay down your arms and surrender. That, or call in the big guns. At the end of the day, shitty type costs them the same as good type.


Bringhurst, R. (2004). The elements of typographic style. Hartley & Marks Publishers Inc, Washington, United States.

Felici, J. (2003). The complete manual of typography. Peachpit Press, California, United States.

Hartley, J. (1994). Designing instructional text. Kogan Page, London, England.

Spiekermann, E. & Ginger, E. (1993). Stop stealing sheep and find out how type works. Adobe Press, California, United States.

Swann, C. (1969). Techniques of typography. Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, United States.

Tschichold, J. (1937). House rules for typesetting: the Publisher’s standard instructions for the typesetter (as cited by Tschichold, J. 1975/1991). The form of the book. Essays on the morality of good design. Hartley & Marks Publishers Inc. Washington, United States.

Williams, R. (1990). The Mac is not a typewriter. Peachpit Press, California, United States.

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