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One Space Or Two After A Period?

As with so many aspects of the writing world, formatting issues are a gray area, and writers struggle with the burning question: One space or two after closing punctuation?

When in doubt, creative writers often turn to the Chicago Manual of Style, whose official view is that there is no good reason to use two spaces after a period for work that is to be published. (Obviously, this rule does not apply to personal correspondence, notes, etc.)

In the days of typewriters, extra space was necessary to create a more defined space between sentences for the reader’s eye. Typewriter fonts are monospaced, which means that all the letters take up the same amount of space, and most of us were taught in typing class to add that extra keystroke at the end of a sentence. But computerized fonts are proportionally spaced, and a single space is sufficient to provide a visible break. The exceptions are the fonts Courier and Monaco, which are monospaced, but it’s probably best to switch to a font such as Times New Roman or Arial rather than using the double space.

So save yourself a keystroke; there’s something to be said for efficiency. And if you’re submitting your writing to literary agents and editors, save yourself some time. Try Writer’s Relief

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4 Responses to One Space Or Two After A Period?

  1. Personally, I still put two spaces between sentences just because it’s automatic; I touch-type, and I guess I just like the feeling of finality those two spaces give my sentences (Twitter is my own exception, where the extra space takes up a precious character). Plus, typing an extra space gives me more time to think ;)

    All that said, most modern word processing programs have an option to correct for grammar either way, so if you like to use only one space but need to submit with two, you can have the program auto-correct afterwards – and vice-versa for two-space typists. Easy-peasy! :)

  2. As always, follow the guidelines specific to each submission. But generally speaking, two spaces is considered "old school." It’s unlikely that an agent or editor would reject on the basis of such minor details, but it’s good to show professionalism by keeping up with industry trends.

    The same goes for using Courier. While it’s not "wrong" to use Courier, doing so can imply that the submitter may be a little bit behind the times or unwilling to move past traditions that no longer have practical value in a digital age.

    Editors and agents are often looking for projects (and writers) that offer fresh and modern perspectives. That said, the important thing here is the quality of the writing–that it’s engaging, error-free, and technically strong.

  3. I’ve never heard anything contrary from the agents and editors I’ve worked with, and I’ve done both Times New Roman and Courier. I will continue to do two spaces between sentences until I hear otherwise.

    Oh, how I wish editors and agents would come to a uniform agreement on what they want a manuscript to look like!

  4. True.

    But many publishers still demand Courier type for manuscripts and if you’re thinking of writing a script in any thing other than that ……

    Well fagetabatit!!!!!

    Though the above suggestion would work for Magazines in print or electronic. Seems I’ve never had a problem with using Helvetica.

    However, some mags specifically ask that your article be in a certain type.

    So my advice is give ’em what they want even if it means an extra keystroke.

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