two blank spaces after a period

Discussion in 'English Only' started by boterham, Sep 20, 2007.

  1. boterham Senior Member

    Rijsel, France
    French, France
    Hello :)
    I have a question regarding English punctuation. I know the rule according to which one should type two or three blank spaces after a period. I was wondering when one must use it as I can't see it very often in anything I read...
    thanks in advance !!
     
  2. nzseries1

    nzseries1 Senior Member

    London
    New Zealand - English
    I wondered this myself recently.
    Take a look at this page:

    http://wsu.edu/~brians/errors/spaces.html

    You don't see it on the internet much because HTML (the name of the language which most web pages are written in) strictly forbids two spaces after a period. If you create a standard web page without any special characters, it is impossible to put two spaces after a period.
     
  3. The Slippery Slide Senior Member

    Japan
    Britain
    My teachers always told me to put a double space after a period, but I'm now an editor, and we only use single space. The Chicago Manual of Style advocates the single space. It's only taken me a couple of months to get used to it.

    I heard that it comes from the days when people used typewriters. The keys were all the same width, so a space could never vary, and so it was made double-size after a full-stop/period. This was important for letters such as T, where the top part could give the appearance of being closer to the dot. However, computer word processing programs provide clearer formatting, so there is no longer any need.
     
  4. boterham Senior Member

    Rijsel, France
    French, France
    OK that's great. thanks a lot !!
     
  5. roxcyn

    roxcyn Senior Member

    USA
    American English [AmE]
    Generally it's two spaces as other people have stated. If you are citing works using APA / MLA or you are writing for newspapers they may have you use one space due to their regulations. Generally academic essays will have two spaces after the period & the references cited may have one space (included on the reference sheet).

    Pablo
     
  6. bluefish2008 New Member

    English - Britain
    I got this bashed into me when studying graphic design at college many years ago:

    Before the invention of the computer, typewriters were used to write letters. On the typewriter, the space bar shifted the carriage just the amount needed to make a word space. The full stop or period didn't take up a huge amount of space and didn't shift the carriage as much as a letter would. So to make the line of text look less squished, a bit more room was needed after the full stop. The habit of tapping the space bar twice after a period was born. So if you're using a typewriter, tap away all you want.

    When word processors came along, they were a bit more clever and automatically assumed that if you tap the space bar after a full stop, you really want a double space and automatically did that for you (thereby saving some time). Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell those who had migrated from typewriters to word processors of this wizzo new development! So now when you enter full stop, space, space, you are really hitting Full stop, double space, space. This is why we end up with rollings vistas with wilderbeast migrating across the vast open planes between the end of one sentence and the start of the next.

    On receiving documents for inclusion in anything we produce, one of the first things we do is to go through the whole darned thing looking for double spaces and removing them.
     
  7. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    Hoho ~ your post made me laugh quite loud, Bluefish (Welcome to the forum, by the way:)), particularly the part about wildebeest migrating across the plains;)
    I'm one of those folk who migrated progressed from manual typewriter to electric typewriter to word-processing typewriter to full-blown computer ... and I still persist in typing double-space after a full-stop: I just can't stop myself [groan].
    And I still feel miffed when a double-space I've typed ends up being transmogrified into a single-space by Mr.Gates-Who-Knows-Best. Reactionary, moi?
     
  8. Monkey F B I Senior Member

    Acton, MA
    English - USA
    I always learned to use one or two spaces after a period, never three though.

    I use one.
     
  9. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Would anyone happen to know if the old two-space rule applies in other languages?
     
  10. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    No idea, SwissP ~ you could always try asking in 'All Languages' in the 'Other Languages' forum:)
     
  11. katie_here Senior Member

    England
    England/English

    This is true. I learnt to type on an old manual typewriter, electric ones weren't that common in schools in those days. Anyway, we were always taught to use a double space after a full stop. I still do this to this day, as old habits die hard, but then, typing styles have changed a lot too and it's not as strict as it once was. Indenting the first paragraph 5 spaces was a rule too, but my first job was for an American company and I actually learnt my typing style to their standard.

    Personally, I think a double space looks neater, but then as single space is common now too, we will soon get used to it. I think it's a matter of preference rather than a firm fixed rule.
     
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I was very firmly instructed by several secretaries that a double space was essential. I don't think I'm entirely convinced that word processors completely ignore me when I do this now. There is no doubt at all that when proofreading stuff I often change single spaces to double spaces and that when I do the overall layout changes accordingly.

    I'm not so sure about the wildebeest. Speaking entirely for myself, I think white space is vastly under-rated as an aid to comprehension. Let's leave room for the gnus.
     
  13. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    This never was a rule of English punctuation, but one of presentation imposed by teachers of typing with machines that used fixed-space type. (How do you insert two spaces in cursive writing?)

    Old habits and concepts die very, very hard.

    Moreover, I think the typing teacher-imposed rule was to insert an extra space between sentences and not after periods (full stops). Periods are used for more purposes than just ending sentences and sentences can be terminated by question marks (?) and exclamation points (!) or a close-quote.

    In other words, you probably wouldn't insert a space after "Dr." in "Dr. Jonas Salk." (or the preceding period, for that matter).
     
  14. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    I have always only used a double space after a period, and so have the style guides of all of my current and previous employers.

    A single space after a comma though.
     
  15. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Perhaps it would be clearer if we talked about a double space between sentences :)
    I assumed that was what boterham was asking about.
     
  16. boterham Senior Member

    Rijsel, France
    French, France
    OK thank you all :) This is much clearer now!
     
  17. katie_here Senior Member

    England
    England/English
    Whilst I was working with a class of 5/6year olds, we taught them to place a finger at the end of the sentence, and start the next one with a "fingerspace" inbetween. So not exactly two spaces perse, but it is a "fixed" space nonetheless.
     
  18. juandiego

    juandiego Senior Member

    Granada. España
    Spanish from Spain
    No notion of the matter by here, Pete. But given the reasonable explanation by which that graphic design advice or rule was promoted and that in the typewriter era I was not one of said machine regular users, so probably not aware of the most of its style rules, I may well be perfectly wrong.
     
  19. Jared82CA Member

    Turabian does not insist on two spaces at the end of a sentence. The two-space rule came from the typewriter age, so it is no longer a "must." And even though as a news editor I have to proof copy for extra spacing, in most cases, consistency in a document is far more important.
     
  20. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    (Turabian is shorthand for a style guide by Kate L.Turabian, for those not in the know [like me].)
     
  21. Billf Senior Member

    Greece
    English UK
    I hope I may ask about punctuation here, or is it strictly a grammar only site? Assuming that I may, please can someone clarify a couple of points for me.

    When I learned to type many years ago I was told to always leave two clear spaces between a full stop and the beginning of a new sentence. I write in UK English but much of my work is then translated into other languages (that use different alphabets) and I have recently been asked to stop putting the second space in.

    My queries are firstly whether it is still correct to leave two clear spaces when typing in English, and secondly whether this is something peculiar only to English text? :confused:

    Many thanks for any and all advice.
     
  22. etrader Senior Member

    Persian
    As far as i know, NO

    One space is enough, as this style is followed in all printed and online documents (at least in English)
     
  23. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    I believe the double space convention was purely for typewriters, where the fount is fixed-width. In both old-fashioned typesetting and modern word-processing there is no need for it, since spacing is delicately adjusted for visual effect. In fact it's a nuisance if people double-space, because it can upset the spacing algorithm of the word-processor.
     
  24. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Billf,
    If it's any comfort, I was taught (in the printing club at school in the UK - yes, cases of individual letters and ink and rollers) the same way: 2 spaces after a full stop and only one after a comma. Even though I suppose I technically use periods (since I now live in the US) I still use two spaces after them. Fortunately, no-one has to edit or translate what I write (I've stopped publishing scientific articles). I still feel it "looks better" with a more meaningful break between sentences than between clauses. But time moves on, I suppose, and leading and kerning are done behind the scenes so the two space tradition is frowned on :(
     
  25. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Not only is the use of two spaces archaic, but modern wire-service computers automatically strip extra spaces from textual copy before sending it on to newspapers.
     
  26. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    Hi Bill ~ I've merged your thread with a previous one on the same subject:)

    I'm still still typing double spaces [see post #7] ... and still still miffed when they get converted into single ones:mad:
     
  27. MrsWigs Member

    Essex
    English
    I studied admin and secretarial studies back in 1994, where we used typewriters to practise on. We were taught that a double space should be put after a full-stop. I still do it now. I think that if nothing else, it is easier on the eye when reading long documents.
     
  28. Billf Senior Member

    Greece
    English UK
    Thanks everyone for your responses.

    Like MrsWigs and Ewie I still type the good old double space between sentences, having been taught my keyboard skills way back in those heady days of the early '80s, when golfball typewriters were the newest innovation and Microsoft was still just a twinkle in Bill Gates eyes! However, I shall take the advice of those less archaic than myself and will submit my texts for translation with the accepted single space in future. Thank heavens for the find and replace function. ;)
     
  29. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    I'm amazed at the amount of effort that has gone into this thread, which has nothing to do with the English language. However, the double space was originally a convention for fixed pitch typewriters which then carried over to proportional font typewriters. Traditional cold-metal printers use pieces of lead to add space after a full stop. Word-processing programs use an adjustment to the proportional font. The method varies between programs, and users of Microsoft Word may find (if they look hard enough) that one of the options is to use the WordPerfect method for full justification - because, among other better ways of justification, WordPerfect uses a fixed long space width at the end of a sentence and Word doesn't (because W**d is c**p). If the full stop is followed by two space characters and ends up at the end of the line in fully justified text you also get a one space right indent on that line.

    I work with a typist who insists on the double space despite using Word, and I reckon her output looks pretty poor. The problem is not as great if you don't fully-justify text, but most word processors still pad the space between sentences automatically, so the double space gives you something more like a triple space.

    Anyway, let's get back to the English language shall we?
     
  30. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Not once I'm done with you.

    When I studied typography and newspaper design in journalism school (admittedly a long time ago) the rule was an "N" space between words; an "M" space between sentences.

    The N-space was equal to the width of the letter "N"; the M-space was equal to the width of the letter "M". The M-space was wider than the N-space but not twice as wide. On the typewriter the double space and single space were the only spacing options. So the typing convention.

    What I cannot remember (it was 43 years ago after all) is when to use the uppercase M-space and when to use the lower case m-space. I think there was a rule about that too.

    And then there was there was the inter-line spacing... (off topic so that discussion ends here...)
     
  31. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The English language is a spoken and written - and typed - creature.
    I believe that my double-spacing between sentences is an aid to comprehension. It makes a difference. Spacing, like punctuation, is there to help the reader.
    Please leave space for the gnus.
     
  32. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I agree. But I think the spaces are stripped here too, dear panj. My excursion to "preview post" confirms that's true. All the extra spaces I put in for pasturing the gnus was sheared and mulched by the forum software, not just the extra fields between the sentences. I'm so glad we don't have a default serif font that would invert the apostrophes too :(
    Let's revert to snail mail where we can roam as we please.
     
  33. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I know about the way this forum steals my double spaces. I put them there just the same, out of habit.

    For those who suggest that word processing software makes this irrelevant, let me assure you that in the case of Word, for one, it does not. I have just checked the last Word document that I created and if I wander through and change double-spaced sentences to single-spaced, they all huddle together and I can see how stressed they are becoming.
     
  34. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    As I said, Panj, W**rd is c**p. It doesn't pad sentences properly if you left justify, it overpads them if you fully justify, and when the typist uses a double space it can leave a single line right indented in fully-justified text.

    ... and that's only what's wrong with the way it handles spaces at the end of sentences. All the other things it does are off-topic.
     
  35. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    As sdgraham and entanglebank suggest, the two-space rule is from the typewriter era where all the letters are monospaced, meaning that i and r and m all take up the same horizontal space. The two spaces between sentences visually enhance the separation between sentences.

    Now that we're in the era of proportional spacing, where the i and r and m take up varying widths of space, we generally follow typesetting, rather than typewriting, rules. In typesetting, there's only one space between sentences.

    If you look at any magazine, you'll find a single space between sentences, because they're typeset using proportional (more attractive :)) fonts. The only time I personally would use two spaces between sentences on the computer is if I were typing in a monospaced font such as Courier, which is still a requirement for some manuscripts. Otherwise, I run a macro over every document and replace two spaces with one. If I'm editing someone else's document, this technique also helps to find any formatting flaws, such those introduced by people who use spaces instead of tabs.
     
  36. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I taught myself typing in the 1970s with the Pitman's Typewriting Course on a manual typewriter. Yes, as everyone says, two spaces after a full stop. Five spaces at the beginning of a paragraph. I continued doing that in the 1980s with word processing (remember all those dot matrix printers?), but switched to single space around 1990, and am surprised that there are so many people out there holding on to double space!
     
  37. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It's hard to shift the habits of a lifetime, especially when, as in this case, they appear to the habit-owner to have beneficial results.
     
  38. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    My first typewriter (an old manual Royal office machine) did not have an exclamation mark on the keyboard. You had to type an apostrophe, then back-space once and type a period to create the exclamation mark.

    ' + . = !

    Also there was no #1 on the keyboard and you had to use a lowercase "L" for that purpose.

    1 = l

    Two spaces after a period or colon; on space between words and after a semi-colon or comma.

    Five spaces at the beginning of a paragraph (except in business correspondance where it was 2 spaces) and an extra line between paragraphs.

    Double spaced was acceptable for rough drafts only (except in journalism school where double space was de rigeur.)
     
  39. frenchforschool Member

    English
    I only leave one blank space after a period.
    I've never heard of leaving more than one???
     
  40. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I presume you mean you "hadn't" heard of it until you read this thread :D
     
  41. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    Might we ask how old you are, FFS? Have you at least heard of typewriters?;)
     

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