[This is part of an ongoing ChurchMag series, A Dutch-Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Better Writer.]
I recently edited a couple of articles for a blog and it struck me again how many people use a double space after a period. It’s not something you encounter occasionally, it’s something I see a lot.
When you Google on whether to use single or double spacing after a period (or any kind of punctuation mark really), you’ll find opposing views. Some claim the double spacing is fine, but the majority vehemently combat this practice. And of course both sides firmly stick to their view.
No one knows for certain where and when people learned to use a double space after a period. Some claim it was taught that way when using a typewriter, that you always had to use a double space after a period. Others state it had to do with traditional typesetting and the lack of proportional fonts.
Whatever its origins, the fact is, that double spacing is often seen as a relic from the past. Recruiters use the practice of double spacing for instance to determine an applicant’s age—anyone doing it must be over 50, or so they reason. But I see young people do it as well and they certainly haven’t learned typing on a typewriter!
The facts are these:
- From the 1950’s, using a single space after a period became the standard in books and printed media.
- In this Internet day and age, almost all professional digital media use a single space as well (also because HTML ignores double spacing, although there’s an option to do it if you really wanted to).
- The leading American style manual, The Chicago Manual of Style, prescribes single spacing, as does its British equivalent, New Oxford Style Manual.
- Publishers require manuscripts with single spacing after punctuation marks, and if you use them, they will edit them out (interesting fact: they have software to do this, showing just how ingrained this double spacing habit is).
My position may be clear (the title of this post certainly is a dead giveaway):
Stop using double spaces.
If you are in the habit of using two spaces, this habit may be so ingrained that it will take you considerable effort to unlearn it. I understand. But I’d suggest you either force yourself, or make a habit of erasing all your double spaces after you’re done writing.
I think double spacing makes you look unprofessional at best, and at worst, communicates unwanted associations about age and those infamous old practices that die hard.
Do you use double spacing? If so, where did you learn it?