BenevolentForce's picture
BenevolentForce from Los Angeles is reading 1Q84 October 18, 2011 - 8:08pm

There has been a shift in recent years to one space, instead of two, after the period in a sentence.  

So... 

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.  The lazy dog didn't give a shit.

Now often seems to look like this... 

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The lazy dog didn't give a shit.

This shift becomes especially irritating when someone else is editing your doc, and some percentage of your work suddenly has different spacing throughout.  I'm not a form purist or anything, but recently was in a debate about the correctness of one versus the other.  The Internet doesn't provide a sure answer so I'm putting it to popular vote.  One or two spaces?

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day October 18, 2011 - 8:12pm

 I think two looks a bit nicer.  Plus, I remember my ninth grade typing teacher saying there should be two.

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit October 18, 2011 - 8:14pm

I think formatting is evolving due to the prevalence of electronic files and email submissions over typewritten manuscripts and postmail. Two spaces aren't needed when you've got an electronic file that records every keystroke for you, so my vote is for one space after a period. I've never had an editor comment in favor of one or the other, so I doubt it matters much. If an editor wanted to change it, it's simply a matter of Ctrl+F.

BenevolentForce's picture
BenevolentForce from Los Angeles is reading 1Q84 October 18, 2011 - 8:34pm

Interesting.  Just to be clear - my vote is two spaces, but mostly because I can't seem to train myself out of typing the two spaces (and like @Nick, I think it looks nicer).

Bekanator's picture
Bekanator from Kamloops, British Columbia is reading Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter October 18, 2011 - 9:10pm

Alex is right, although at this point in time there really is no right or wrong; it all depends on when we were taught to type.  Apparently kids are taught to only use one space, but in the nineties I learned to use two spaces, and I can't force myself to only type one.  It's so manic, and when I'm writing.  I don't think it's worth obsessing about typing only one space after a bloody sentence.

I once had this discussion with a graphic student friend of mine.  We both agreed that one space looks better, but I suppose it's all based on what end you're on.  As writers, we're typing manuscripts, which are supposed to be filled with EXTRA SPACE.  I obsess with words.  The formatting people can worry about that space later on.

The only place I ever use one space is in Twitter when I'm trying to keep my status update under the allotted 140 characters.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch October 18, 2011 - 9:24pm

One space for me.    Although I can do more than one if I really have to. No, really, I grew up somewhere where there was an economy of space on paper, so I was taught one space in typing class.

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club October 18, 2011 - 9:28pm

It seems that people stick with what they're taught.  I use two spaces, and I also put 'an' before a word starting with an 'h'.  That used to be correct, but apparently that's wrong now too.  Ex. 'It was an historical event.'

Kate Winters's picture
Kate Winters from Toronto is reading James Rollins' Sigma Force series October 18, 2011 - 9:29pm

I'm used to typing one space, so I will continue to do so. I was taught to do two spaces when I first learned the language, but found that with the heavy use of computers, like Alex said, isn't really an issue anymore. Typing one space makes my typing more fluid and faster so *shrug* personal preference I guess.

Dr. Gonzo's picture
Dr. Gonzo from Manchester, UK is reading Blood Meridian October 18, 2011 - 11:25pm

I do two out of habit.  Find and replace when editing.

XyZy's picture
XyZy from New York City is reading Seveneves and Animal Money October 19, 2011 - 5:40am

There has been a shift in recent years to one space, instead of two, after the period in a sentence. 

This is misleading. If by recent years you mean seventy years then you are correct. In America, pretty much all print (books, magazines, and newspapers) was switching to single space after terminal punctuation in the '40s, and the UK followed in the '50s. So if you are looking for the correct way, style guides will tell you to use a single space, and have for quite some time. And pretty much everything you've ever read has been printed that way. The only book I own that uses double-spacing between sentences was published in 1897, and it also does other weird things: like an en space before and an em space after colons and semi-colons. My copy of The Golden Bough (my edition is from 1981) also uses double-spacing for the text as it was printed in 1890, but the foreward and editor's notes are single-spaced.

If you run into archaic submission guidelines that request it (and yes, screenwriting submission guidelines are about as archaic as they come), then go ahead and use two spaces. I haven't seen a submission guidelines that actually specifies on that point for quite some time; probably because as writers, we're supposed to know the proper way of doing it.

And if you're just 'stuck in your ways', or if you hold on to out-dated manuscript format rules because 'that is just the way it is done', remember that the typesetters still have to pull out all those extra spaces when going to print. And as an editor, if I have to choose between two equally good stories to publish, I choose the one that doesn't create extra work for me when I'm typesetting. Now I won't throw out a good piece just because it has double spaces after periods, because I know just how prevelant this bad practice still is, but it is an extra step and another thing that can go wrong before printing.

I also personally find it jarring and inelegant.

wickedvoodoo's picture
wickedvoodoo from Mansfield, England is reading stuff. October 19, 2011 - 5:49am

Yeah I've never seen a call for submissons that requested double spaces after periods. Nor do I think I've ever seen a print publication end up like that. (That I've actually noticed anyway)

Essay style guides, teachers back in school, generally everything I have encountered has taught me to just use one.

It might put me off reading a long document to be honest - looks weird.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 19, 2011 - 10:04pm

I was going to say this, although, probably less eloquently:

I think formatting is evolving due to the prevalence of electronic files and email submissions over typewritten manuscripts and postmail. Two spaces aren't needed when you've got an electronic file that records every keystroke for you, so my vote is for one space after a period. I've never had an editor comment in favor of one or the other, so I doubt it matters much. If an editor wanted to change it, it's simply a matter of Ctrl+F.

A. Mason Carpenter's picture
A. Mason Carpenter from USA is reading The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell October 20, 2011 - 1:26am

Two!  By all that is good and holy.  If I could get away with three, I would use three.  I like the way the extra space separates one sentence from another.  I think it just makes everything easier to read, and helps with the flow of text.

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words October 20, 2011 - 4:50am

@Raelyn - "an" before "h" words where the "h" isn't pronounced. an herb, an hour. use "a" before "h" words where it is pronounced a happy hobbyhorse.

I was taught 2 spaces on a typewriter, I've since modified it to 1, which seems to be increasingly the norm. Do what you will, as long as it's consistent. Nothing worse that one space two space red space blue space all over the place.

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club October 27, 2011 - 2:48am

I'm writing a short story for the Zen Mind class right now, and I'm trying really really hard to only use one space. 

David Welsh's picture
David Welsh from New Hampshire is reading The Shining October 27, 2011 - 8:54am

I was taught to use two spaces, but after an editor told me to use one, I've adapted. I've heard more often than not that one space is correct in the computer age. When I had to write the style guide for work, I settled on the one space.

I think it's best to just adapt to it if you can, but Ctrl-F at the end of writing is a simple solution if you can't break the habit.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 27, 2011 - 9:05am

It's really easy to change all the two spaces to one if you can't break the habit. Just do a search. And click on the "search for" box or whatever and press your space bar twice. And click on the "replace" box and press your space bar once. Then hit the "replace all" button. And then it fixes everything.

Two spaces between sentences rather than one was used back when people wrote on typwriters rather than computers.

Mike Mckay's picture
Mike Mckay is reading God's Ashtray October 31, 2011 - 10:03pm

A single space is my preference.

simon morris's picture
simon morris from Originally, Philadelphia, PA; presently Miami Beach, FL is reading This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George November 5, 2011 - 1:07pm

The answer is simple: The correct answer is always what the editor wants. A good publisher will supply a manuscript format which you must follow.

There is a logical reason for the diminished space. When you take a company which publishes 250 books a year with a total of 3,000,000 copies and subtract a space from every sentence in every book, do you know how much paper that saves over the course of 10 years? That savings becomes profit. Profit becomes either a new condo in the South of France or several new writers they can take a chance publishing.

In publishing, there is nothing small enough to be overlooked if it will change the bottom line by 5 cents a copy.

Mindspring 57's picture
Mindspring 57 from Virginia is reading The Poets Laureate Anthology November 5, 2011 - 3:57pm

In the mid-seventies, my high school typing instructor taught that one inserts two spaces between sentences, and I did just that until very recently, when I read that digital formatting frees writers from the ridgid tyranny of mechanical typewriter spacing, and that it is now preferable to use only one space. Remember, back in the seventies, few people had access to a personal computer and Microsoft Word. I didn't take long to adapt.