Language is a fickle beast.  Untamed, it gives in to its own creative potential, spawning words like “ginormous” or “anywhoo,” both of which have recently found their way into the Oxford English Dictionary, the bible of the English vocabulary.  Punctuation morphs into popular text designs like:

❤     or      ‘:-)

As far as I can tell, this is especially unique to the English language.  In contrast, the French take great care to keep their language free of blemishes.  The Académie Française, charged with publishing a yearly dictionary, has members called “immortals,” which should speak to their level of seriousness.  They’re the reason that French is still the most precise language in the world, used for all global legal documents.

In English, since there are so many different standards for style in writing (Chicago Manual, Modern Language Association, Associated Press, etc.), it’s often difficult to know exactly how to use language correctly. Rules of grammar and spelling are occasionally phased out as English evolves, and depending on which style you subscribe to, these rules encounter a kind of grace period where they’re neither right nor wrong. For example, word processors will let you get away with “traveler” or “traveller,” since both are still acceptable.  It’s quite annoying.

Last week at work, my coworkers and I entered into a heated debate on the practice of double spacing after a period—a bit of style that appears to be in its grace period.  After a lot of noise and no small number of death threats, we learned that our views were varied and rigid.  In the interest of democracy in the English language, we’d like to offer our votes, and ask that our readers weigh in with a comment or two.



I always put two spaces after a period.  When I first began typing my work (on a computer) I always used Courier or Courier New.  In these monotype fonts, two spaces were de rigeur.  I’ve heard that in newer fonts (created at the end of the age of typewriters) periods have extra space built into the end of the character, but it’s just not enough.  In some fonts, such as Microsoft’s new standard, Calibri, I can’t tell it’s there at all.  Typographical research indicates that two-spaces after a period make texts harder to read.  While it makes sense that reading two-space writing would make reading negligibly slower, faster isn’t always better.  Each time I read one-space writing I can’t help but feel claustrophobic, trapped in a continuous flow of words.  I sometimes miss the end of sentences and must go back and find them.  Besides, one-space just doesn’t give writing the respect it deserves.  Commas get one space, and paragraphs get a line break and indentation.  An extra space seems like the least we can do to honor the sentence.


My argument is almost entirely emotional.  Back in third grade, Ms. Davis taught me to double space after a period.  This was an unflinching rule.  I’m a pretty aggressive typist, so my laptop’s keyboard has dents in the spacebar from all the times I’ve finished a sentence and smashed that sucker twice to punctuate my success.  As far as I’m concerned these are prized battle scars of my devotion to the double space. I’ve heard all the anti-double-space rhetoric: monotype fonts, word processors auto adjust, blah blah blah.  I don’t care.  It looks easier to read because you can tell when a sentence ends and begins.  Point made.  Period.  Double space.


I’m more moderate in my use of the double space after a period. I recall learning the rule about double spacing in elementary school and accepting it without much thought. All throughout middle school, high school and college I followed this rule because my writing was of an academic nature and any creative writing I did was based off my favorite authors, whose books were printed in monotype fonts. However when I entered grad school, I realized that many newspapers use single spacing after periods to save space on paper. Furthermore, when writing for online outlets (like this one) single spacing after a period is commonly held as the standard. I’ve come to a happy middle. When I write for publications online or in print, I use single spacing after a period. When I write academic or professional pieces, I use double spacing. It works for me.


Double spacing is a relic from the age of typewriters. Typewriters used monospaced fonts, which meant that an extra space after a period made typewritten text more readable. Modern computer fonts are not monospaced and word processors build in that space automatically. Double spacing is unnecessary, and the accepted convention today is to single space after a period. Evolution or God gave humanity opposable thumbs for a reason–that gift should not be wasted on an extraneous space.

The correct spacing after a period is a single space. Some people double space after periods. When I encounter these luddites on the margins of the homo sapien species, I remember the classic scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. A black obelisk descends from space into Earth’s atmosphere while “Thus Spake Zarathustra” crescendos to a fury in accompaniment. Apes, enraptured by this curiosity, begin their evolutionary path toward humanhood. How double spacers descended from such magnificent creatures blows my mind and the mind of God.