One Space or Two?

One of my subscribers writes ‘I can’t hold my tongue any longer…not that that is fun or anything, I just had to tell you something! Just a tiny ‘lil thing. You have 2 spaces after each period. Unless you are typing on an “old fashioned” typewriter, on a computer you use only one space. This is part of my business, graphic design. I hate to criticize but I know you want to be professional and that stands out. It creates a visual break in the copy making it like a stutter in reading. This is a common mistake for those not “in the field”.’

I love that you brought up this subject, Carrie. My readers need this formatting tip to write their own copy. There’s lots of contradictory information on www.google.com if you ask the question of 1 space or 2 spaces at the end of a sentence. Even though it isn’t the subject of friendly mail, angry mail, or even ‘thought you oughta know’ mail, I am always open to tips from the graphic design side to help me improve my site.

Thanks for that 2nd pair of eyes.

Since you shared this important tip, let’s talk about the evolution of writing copy. I learned in Journalism School to use 2 spaces at the end of a sentence because we were taught to write using a typewriter. We didn’t even think about the why, but adding that extra space at end of each sentence was simply for readability until the personal computer became a household word and changed all that.

It helps to understand the lost language of ‘typewriterese’, because the letter “W” takes up as much space as a “1” on the original typewriter. Skinny letters take less space while wide letters take up more space so the extra space added after each sentence make it easier to see where one sentence stops and the next begins.

Just like the computer today, the space- efficient Linotype machine was a revolutionary machine used by newspapers and print shops. The operator filled each letter and space with a line o’ type cast in lead. Wedges were used for spaces, rectangles for letters. If the operator used 2 spaces or 2 wedges it gummed up the line o’ type, so only 1 space was used. Of course, the publishing industry embraced 1 space long before that and continues to follow that rule.

A copyeditor at The University of Chicago (Chicago Manual of Style) thinks, “In our efficient, modern world, there is not room for 2 spaces at the end of a sentence.”

Publishers want single spaces after periods. Most desktop publishers believe desktop publishing (electronic type-setting) should follow the commercial publishers rule, “One space at the end of a sentence.”

Two spaces can cause problems with line breaks in certain programs. Web pages use only one space between sentences. HTML is set up to only display one space no matter how many are typed. A browser, like Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, will only display one.

Should sentences be separated by 1 or 2 spaces? Yes.

Article by:

Copywriting guru Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero has been helping entrepreneurs and copywriters get their marketing messages razor sharp since 1999. Get free access to 5 tips to turn your “blah” sales message into red-hot copy that ROCKS… at www.redhotcopy.com

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