The Nitty-Gritty of Writing: Spacing

It’s time for another nitty-gritty of writing post! Craft of writing and storytelling is important, world-building is important, and generally being creative is important. But so is the boring stuff like punctuation and spacing.

Spacing: One Space or Two?

Many people reading this, when learning to type, may have been taught to put two spaces after a period. Two spaces after a period harkens back to the 19th century (and earlier) when typesetters at printing houses had blocks of a fixed size to represent each letter and each punctuation mark. Typewriters were the same way. Even well into the 20th century, and even after typewriters and typesetting became more adjustable, the convention was still to put two spaces after a period.

On modern computers we can have proportional font – that is, wider letters like “W” take up more space than narrow letters like “I.” In fact, proportional font is usually the default setting in many word processing programs and on internet platforms. Older typewriters and typesetting generally had a monospaced font (each letter or other mark took up the same amount of space on the page); therefore, double spacing after a period made the text easier to read.

As far as I know, the jury is still out on whether one space or two is better or which one is “correct.” Most web platforms auto-correct two spaces after a period to one. The general rule for most text—whether it’s on the web or in print—is one space after a period. Two spaces is not necessary from a practicality standpoint, because we have font and margins that automatically adjust to fill up each line while still making letters legible.

Single Space after a Period

The Chicago Manual of Style stipulates one space after a period. It is a more modern convention (“modern” that pre-dates the age of the internet, by the way, so the single space thing wasn’t cooked up by millennials). Some style books within certain industries still use the double space. So if you’re doing business writing for a company and they stipulate two spaces after a period, by all means, do it. But if you’re writing most anything for the web (whether it’s a blog post, website content, or a book to be read on a Kindle), then you’re better off going with a single space.

Many say that the double space after a period makes text easier to read. This, I think, has more to do with the size and style of the font itself, and perhaps what the particular reader is accustomed to. (I personally find a single space easier to read, and double-spacing after a period is distracting for me because of all the extra white space).

My experience as a web content writer, editor, and published author has taught me that the single space is the current accepted practice, and it’s here to stay. Again, if you’re writing for a particular industry, business, or publisher and you’re given a style guide that asks for double spacing, then follow that style guide. Otherwise, single spacing after a period is the 21st century method.


2 thoughts on “The Nitty-Gritty of Writing: Spacing

    • I can understand how hard it is to change a habit. I know that’s why a lot of people still do the double space. But that’s good to know that you change it to single spacing for the final draft. I’m sure most editors or publishers who read it are grateful for that! 😉


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