The Curious Case of the Double Space

Image result for double space after period

When you work in a multigenerational office environment, you’re bound to come across it. Yes, I’m talking about one of the most controversial topics in modern typography: the double space.

If you’re a millenial, you probably hate it. If you’re over the age of 40, you don’t see what the hubbub is, bub.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what caused this great writing schism.

On Typesetting

Image result for typewriter

The fiery debate over the use of two spaces after a punctuation mark began during the days of the typewriter. Typewriters relied on gears that advanced the carriage a single gear tooth each time a key was pressed, meaning they used monospace font, and each character received the same width on a page (i.e. an took up as much space as an m).

So, you’d think that, stylistically, two spaces provided better readability, as it was more intuitive to see where on sentence stops and the next begins.

With the advent of modern word processors came a veritable onslaught of different fonts using proportional spacing.

Image result for monospace vs proportional

This means that each font was programmed to space characters proportionally (i.e. i takes up about a third of the space m does). In turn, most computer fonts will automatically give you enough room between sentences with one space. So, why does the great debate still rage on?

Like many things, it comes down to how we were taught. Proponents of double spacing insist that double spacing after a period still provides better readability, even with proportionally set fonts. Proponents of single spacing view double spacing as an unnecessary relic of the past that contradicts tight, concise writing.

At the end of the day, you’d be hard pressed to find a style manual that argues for double spacing (for example, Associated Press, Chicago Manual of Style, and Canadian Press all insist on a single space after a punctuation mark). So, if you write professionally, err on the side of style.

Editing Double Spacing

If you work in communications for a large office like me, and you’re a proponent of the single space, you’re probably used to proofreading documents and firing off that backspace button like a gatling gun.

But, there’s an easier way!

word find replace

  1. Hit CTRL+A to select all the text in the document.
  2. Hit CTRL+H to open the Find and Replace window.
  3. Hit the spacebar twice in the Find what: field.
  4. Hit the spacebar once in the Replace with: field.
  5. Click Replace All.

Voila! Double space be gone.

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