The Great Space Debate
How many spaces should there be after a period (a/k/a "full stop")?
If you've sat through a typing class or two with an instructor holding a ruler over
your knuckles to make sure your fingers are in the exactly correct position, your
answer will be "TWO!" If you haven't, your answer probably will be "ONE!"
There is a true controversy raging over the correct number of spaces
after a period (and also a colon). Modern typesetters creating documents
that will be published primarily use one space. In the world of
professional printing, typefaces are well-designed with professionally-tweaked
kerning that should not require that extra space after a period. In those
instances, the period itself is given a comfortable amount of space for the
characters following it to fall in their place. However, on an old-fashioned
typewriter, text was printed with a fixed-width typeface. Fixed-width typefaces
do not aid a reader when presented with a block of text. We are familiar with
this look with Courier, a font we see quite often these days.
This lack of kerning after a period or a colon created the need to insert that
extra space as a clue that the end of a sentence was coming. Most people see
ahead of where they are reading, and such cues are important to maintain flow.
For example, consider the difference between these two blocks of text:
Modern versus traditional? Which way to go? It's a close call, but I think
it is easier to read a block of text, especially on the internet, with two spaces after
the period. And that's why the typing test on this site requires two spaces instead
Modern typesetters would put only one space after the period in this sentence, like this. But is it easier to read
than a block of text with two spaces after the period? I'm not sure. What do you think? What about the readability
of a sentence like this: "He had been wondering whether it was available in the U.K. So, Smith decided the following
measure should be used...."
A typing teacher would say that two spaces are required after the period in this sentence, like this.
Is this easier to read than the block of text above? What do you think?
What about the readability of a sentence like this: "He had been wondering whether it was available in the U.K.
So, Smith decided the following measure should be used...."
For a more complete discussion of this burning issue, check out the following sources.:
How Many Spaces After a Period? - from Adrian Roselli
Full stop - from Wikipedia
One Space or Two? - from the University of Chicago Manual of Style
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