To Double Space or Not to Double Space?

Lately there have been a lot of writers up in arms over nothing.

No really – an article by Slate’s Farhad Manjoo over the overuse of the double space after the period has sparked a heated debate between the “One Space” and “Two Space” camps. In “Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period,” Manjoo goes on a tirade against people who use the two-space rule, saying that their “ugly error cross[es] every social boundary of class, education, and taste.”

And rightfully so; Manjoo says that it seems like every third email he gets – whether from readers, writers or (yes) even those in the PR profession – includes the two-space error. While people range from adamant to indifferent in their defense of the added void, what Majoo finds infuriating is that the overwhelming majority believes they are correct in taking the extra pause after each sentence – and the remainder go out of their way to use two spaces in formal situations because they believe it’s standard procedure. Not so, he says, and he has proof.

Because typewriters used monospaced type (every letter given an equal amount of space) the resulting lines of text looked “looser,” and people began double spacing after sentences to show some separation between thoughts and to make it easier to read. The only issue is that this behavior carried over to the modern PC, which now uses proportional typeface, and the double space actually chops up the flow of a paragraph, lessening readability.

As a PR professional and a one-space convert (12 years and counting!), I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Manjoo. Call me a Word Nerd or blame it on being beaten down by style manuals while in j-school, but I’m borderline-obsessive about not giving the period that extra space worth of breathing room. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but I also think it makes press releases, emails – you name it – easier to read. I just can’t help myself from following behind two-spacers and tightening everything up when I review documents.

Which side of the debate do you fall on – one space or two?

5 thoughts on “To Double Space or Not to Double Space?

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  2. Count me in as a one-spacer. I’ve been a copyeditor, designer, and occasional copywriter/PR writer for over sixteen years, and I learned way back when from the Robin Williams’ book “The Mac Is Not a Typewriter” to eschew the double space after periods (after learning in typing class—yes, typing class; they used to teach it on actual typewriters—to double space or fail the test). But the two-spacers are ubiquitous. One of my dear friends and clients is a two-spacer, and said his entire office was shocked when he sent my e-mail with editing notes around that included the one-space rule.

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  4. When I got out of college, I was indoctrinated with the “one space rule.” I remember when my first editor told me to stop using two spaces after a period and to only use one. I was blown away. In college, my work was marked down if I only used one space–oh the injustice of it all…..

  5. For some reason, I still use two spaces between a state abbreviation and the zip code. Otherwise, now firmly in the one space camp.

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