Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Writing Wednesday: Three reasons to use only one space between sentences

The photo has nothing to do with this post. I just took it recently in St. George, Utah, and thought it fit because it reminds me of wide open spaces. Get it?

Ahem. Anyway, today's post is about that pesky habit that all of us seemed to acquire in junior high school: adding two spaces after every sentence. You probably do it unconsciously and recall your English teacher telling you that it was required formatting for your research papers.

Guess what? It's time to break the habit — and here are three reasons why:

1. Adding extra space between sentences is visually distracting. Whenever I see extra spaces in stories I'm editing at work, I immediately stop whatever I'm doing to remove all of them from the entire document. They stick out to me as much as a misspelled word does, and they make your text look scattered and disjointed. Trust me. Switch to one space between sentences, and I promise you'll notice a difference.

2. Extra spaces can throw off sentence wrapping and other design elements. While this doesn't make a big difference in blog posts or documents, it can affect your layout if you're designing an invitation, poster or flyer — even forcing your text onto a second line at times. Keep things simple by just using one space between sentences.

3. Every major style guide requires just one space after a period. The Associated Press Stylebook is my writer's Bible (used mainly by journalists and magazine editors) and one of the main reasons I broke my bad habit years ago, but the Chicago Manual of Style also requires only one space. Even papers that must fit MLA formatting should have only one space between sentences. Why make things harder on yourself by adding two?

You may be wondering why you were taught to add two spaces all those years ago. Turns out it's because modern typewriters used wider fonts than we use today, and it was much easier to see where sentences ended and new ones began with an extra space between.

Do you add two spaces between sentences? Have you broken the habit?


  1. Ha ha, I was in the bad habit of double spaces when I started work at the school paper and it drove my editor up the wall. It was the hardest habit to break, but I'm glad I did.

  2. that photo is so incredibly beautiful.

    I should show this post to my Mom! We always disagree on the spacing between sentences, she insists there should be two spaces and I think there should be one!

  3. I'm guilty. I will try. Oops, I will try.

  4. I had a professor in college who insisted on the two spaces rule. He would actually take off points if he caught only one space between sentences (and this was in a music theory class!). I was used to only using one space, so I actually had to go back through the whole thing after I'd written it and add in all the extra spaces. Talk about ridiculous!

  5. They taught me to do it when typing, so now I do it automatically. I don't know if I can break that habit without killing my typing speed. My thumb just automatically hits spacebar twice.

  6. i'm pretty sure i don't do it, but it's mainly out of laziness! ;)
    i loved learning the history as to why it started though!


Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts! I love reading them.