How Many Spaces after a Period: One or Two?

Posted Thu, May 14, 2009

I was awoken this morning by the clamor of Google Talk's ring function.  This is not terribly unusual, as shiny (site admin) uses it as his own long-distance, on-demand alarm clock on days when he is really gung-ho about prodding me for content.  Normally it rings for a minute or two before he realizes I have no intention of getting up before noon.  Not today.


Today, it kept ringing.  After five minutes, I figured he must be extra fed-up that I haven't given him a single piece of content since he launched. 


After ten minutes, I figured he was just excited to show me something, maybe Megan Fox decided to do Playboy. 


Fifteen minutes and still going strong; did Microsoft bring back the Seinfeld/Gates commercials?


Twenty minutes.  There was no way he was still doing the ringing himself.  His company shouldn't have hired that assistant.


Twenty-five minutes.  God.  Dammit.  The assistant found the F11/F12 combo.  The ringing is now a cacophonous staccato.


Thirty minutes.  It can only be one thing: Jordan is coming out of retirement.  I jolt out of bed, rush to the computer and prepare myself for the great news…



And then he did.


It's not just the CMOS either.  MLA and AP style also call for only one space:


"Use a single space after the period at the end of a sentence." -- The Associated Press Stylebook



"Because it is increasingly common for papers and manuscripts to be prepared with a single space after all punctuation marks, this spacing is shown in the examples in the MLA Handbook and the MLA Style Manual." – MLA FAQ


I'm appalled.  This is worse than Pluto being stripped of planetary status.  I watched far too much The Magic School Bus and Bill Nye the Science Guy to accept that travesty.  [shiny edit: Ms. Frizzle and Bill Nye totally should have banged… just sayin']


And, I played far too much Typing Tutor to lose my precious double tap at the end of a sentence.



Do you know how many times I saved their god damned city?



[shiny edit: mad props to Sante Fe College of Gainesville, FL for having Typing Tutor on their servers.]


Taking the extra space away from a period strips it of its dignity.  Don't relegate it to the same lowly level of a comma.  A period has beautiful arciform curves that demand the classy double space.  A comma is a dirty imposter, a period with a tail, a period that is pinching one out.  [shiny edit: I told him no poop jokes, but he always finds a way.]


MLA does leave a small window of hope:


"As a practical matter, however, there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor or editor requests that you do otherwise."


With this in mind, I offer the following three reasons why double spacing after a period is superior:


  1. It gives closure to your thought.  The double space is a nice psychological cue that a sentence is done.  Uniform single spacing does not offer any closure.
  2. Single spacing is pretentious.  It's exactly the type of thing my anal retentive, douchebag professor would point out on my research papers.  It's even call "French Spacing."  I rest my case.  [shiny edit: you shouldn't have told him to get his godson a hooker for his 13th birthday.  That's why he hated you.]
  3. It's more efficient.  One of the common single spacing arguments is that it saves you a keystroke.  That's bullshit.  If the double tap was drilled into your DNA when you were young, then it certainly does not save you a keystroke.  In fact, it adds a keystroke and breaks up your flow, as you constantly have to delete the "extra" space in order to appease the powers that be.


However, I'm not above being convinced with a good argument.  Let us know your opinion in the comments.  Or take our poll and let us know what you prefer.




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