Two space or not two space – WDTPRS POLL

Damian Thompson has an interesting post on his blog.

He tackles the convention of typing two spaces after a period, or “full stop” as the British call them.

The use of two spaces, rather than a single space, after a period is both “wrong” and, I am not making this up, an “atrocity”.

Crikey! What have I been doing all these years?

There was an interesting observation in his post:

Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren’t for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine’s shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do.

I just saw an episode of Downton Abbey in which the downstairs staff gazed with fascinated opprobrium at a typewriter.

I learned quite a lot from the article to which Damian linked, so it wasn’t a waste of those several minutes of my life to check this out.

In any event, Damian seems pretty worked up about this.

Perhaps WDTPRSers can offer some consolation … or irritation, as the case may be.

I use two spaces because, after several decades, that is what my thumb does all by itself at the end of a sentence.  I still type the way I used to (I learned on and first used manual typewriters).

NB: There were two spaces after that last period.

Ooopps…  did it again.

Let’s have a WDTPRS poll about this contended point.

Choose your best answer and then give an explanation in the combox.

When I write with my computer keyboard...

View Results

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But first, ….


Mystic Monk

When you’ve had a hard day of adding too many spaces to your magnum opus et arduum, when your thumb is nearly bleeding from overuse due to double-spacing, when you can’t stand the waste of space on the page… the horror… have some Mystic Monk Coffee!

Yes, ladies and gentleman, Mystic Monk Coffee is the traditional writer’s coffee.  It’s even roasted and shipped by traditional Carmelite monks who are trying to build a new monastery in Wyoming’s wide open spaces.

No double-wide for them!

Yes, Mystic Monk Coffee is the perfect coffee for the traditionally inclined.

With a piping hot WDTPRS mug of Mystic Monk Coffee, you can argue to your heart’s content and never grow weary!  Just like a real traditionalist.   You can argue about whether it is more traditional to go back to punctuation conventions before the typewriter or whether it is by now traditional to insert that extra space.

Ordinary spacing or extraordinary spacing?

Just make another pot of Mystic Monk Coffee, friends, and you can argue to your heart’s content.

Mystic Monk Coffee!

It’s swell!

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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100 Responses to Two space or not two space – WDTPRS POLL

  1. prairie says:

    Um… I used to use two spaces, but ran across the info that one space was now considered correct and switched.

  2. Kris says:

    Same here, I used to use two (as I had learned) for papers and written communication but recently started to switch to one space for everything.

  3. AnnAsher says:

    I’m a single spacer. On phone text as well. I learned on a manual typewriter – not sure where the confusion stems from. Also, if I wanted to double space after periods, I’d have those pesky red wiggly lines nagging at me from iWork’s Pages. Ithinkwhatidliketotryisnopunctuationitcouldbefunandthentheentiredocumentwouldbeoutlinedinredhowprettythatwouldbesortoflikechristmaslights

  4. I write with one space after full stops. Always have and always will. In fact, it has never occurred to me to do otherwise. Then again, I’m not American. Nor British for that matter.

  5. Centristian says:

    Ah, you watched Downton Abbey. Small world. I watched the first part; typical English period drama formula:

    Wealthy aristocratic family seated on an impossibly idyllic country estate faces impending financial quandry.

    Wealthy and single young duke arranges a visit, delighted parents just assume that the wealthy and single young duke has arranged the visit in order to court their as yet unmarried eldest daughter.

    Caricature of an English head butler leads a household of domestics of varying competence and reliability, scolding them regularly for supposed offenses which leave the 21st century mind flummoxed.

    Handsome young footman is unhappy with his station in life and aspires to something greater…like being a valet.

    Dippy teen housemaid seems to have an innocent crush on handsome young footman and bats her eyelashes at him, routinely.

    Handsome young footman has no interest at all in dippy teen housemaid (but why?).

    Wealthy young and single duke has no interest at all in as yet unmarried eldest daughter (but why?)


  6. Choirmaster says:

    The story, as far as I can gather, is that it is a long-standing, professional typographical convention to insert more space after a full-stop period than the ordinary space left after other characters and non-full-stop periods.

    The “two space” convention began and ended with the mechanical, mono-spaced typewriter. Since the typewriter could not “proportionally” space (i.e. 1/2 space or 3/4 space), it became standard to use two spaces to emphasize the “full-stop” nature of the preceding period.

    Using modern word-processors and modern type-setting and lithography software, this full-stop business can now be properly re-produced without the aid of a professional typesetter, although it is rarely put into practice.

    Most people, now, prefer to use only one space in between all words because two spaces is a hack, or a work-around, that is inappropriate in modern applications.

    That being said, Fr. Z, even though you type two spaces into your blog, the HTML rendering agents in our web-browser will only ever display one. That’s right, in HTML, the rendering agent will ignore all extra spaces.

    To get extra spaces in your text to explicitly render, you must use the sequence:


    It stands for “non-breaking space”.

  7. Daniel Latinus says:

    I learned long ago to use two spaces after periods and colons. It seems to make the paragraphs look a bit more comfortable.

    Perhaps Damian’s thing is the result of using workstations that send code directly to typesetting equipment, and the extra spaces mess with the formatting. Or maybe an IT person chewed him out for wasting expensive memory space.

    But you know, the British have been streamlining some aspects of punctuation for years, witness the dropping of the period after abbreviations. Now if only they would get rid of those extra “u”s in everything…

    But what really irks me is the misuse of apostrophes. “It’s” is the contraction of “it is”, not the possessive if “it”. The apostrophe is not used to form the plural.

  8. mrsmontoya says:

    I can live with the single space after a period. What causes me extreme pain is to see punctuation placed outside closing quotation marks. It seems no one remembers the rules for using quotation marks and punctuation. In the words of Charlie Brown, “ARGH!” or even “enough said,” said Lucy.

  9. jkm210 says:

    I use two spaces, as I was taught on the QWERTY typing program on an Apple II computer in kindergarten. It’s so habitual that I think I would have to make a strong effort to stop doing it, and I’ve never had any complaints, so I’m not going to worry about it. I wonder if anyone teaches kids to type at all anymore, or if they just teach themselves.

    I was also watching that Downton Abbey episode on Sunday, and didn’t expect the typewriter to be in the secret box, but I think the staff was more shocked that Gwen wanted to leave her fabulous job as a housemaid to be a secretary, than by the typewriter itself.

  10. Philangelus says:

    It’s a typesetting thing. If you write the greatest novel of all time, your publisher will not reject it because you have two spaces after a period. Instead they’ll do a global search and replace to change the two-space to one-space, and you’re fine.

    You can fix MS Word and most other word processors to autocorrect two spaces to one space, and keep the pre-concilliar two-space habit intact. ;-) (That’s what I do, I believe. I no longer pay attention to what my thumb does at the end of a sentence.

  11. Choirmaster says:


    I believe the placement of the punctuation (inside or outside of the closing-quotation mark) is dependent upon the context of the quote.

    For example, if the quote itself ends a sentence, then the full-stop is placed within the closing quotation mark, whereas if the quoted material is “end quoted” before the end of the sentence in the original, but at the end of the sentence in the quoting work, then the punctuation is placed outside of the quotation mark.

    It makes sense to me, as you don’t want to quote someone’s punctuation incorrectly, but I would appreciate some correction from an expert on this.

  12. Archicantor says:

    A proper typesetting system (like LaTeX) will add extra space after a “full stop” automatically, because that’s what properly typeset books look like. The extra space is itself a kind of punctuation, assuring the reader that the period marks the end of a sentence rather than an abbreviation. BUT, when I submit an article for publication by an academic publisher (and they insist on having such things in MS Word), I am always asked NOT to include an extra space, since this will mess with their typesetting software. So, rule of thumb: if you’re submitting something for publication (that will be processed by a competent typesetter) or are yourself using something like LaTeX, don’t bother with an extra space; but if you’re a student writing a term paper in MS Word and you want your professor to be able to read it easily, add the extra space. He (at least I) will thank you.

  13. Tim Ferguson says:

    I used to do two spaces after a period (I am a self-taught typist, never had a class, but I read my sister’s typing manual, which called for two spaces, and taught myself on a manual typewriter in junior high). Then I edited the parish bulletin for a number of years. There were some very erudite and helpful folks in the parish who, each Monday, would return their bulletins to me, marked up and corrected. One was a retired executive secretary, one was a typist, and one was simply one of the most brilliant polymaths I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

    It was the polymath who informed me of the one-space rule – she could wax on most eloquently about fonts and font designers (did you know that the italic font of Perpetua is called Felicity?), and then turn the conversation to chaos theory, medieval literature, the Beat poets or geology. Trusting her demonstrative erudition, I switched.

    As a canonist, I am a firm believer in the benefit of stable law. Yet, I am also a believer that rules must serve a purpose, and when the matter that the regulation governs is intrinsically reordered (cf. c. 20 of the Latin Code, c. 1502 of the Eastern Code), the former law, which no longer serves a purpose, no longer binds.

  14. Choirmaster says:


    Yes, indeed, LaTeX! That awesome typesetting software uses all of the well-established typographical conventions. It also treats the full-stops differently when calculating justification spacing.

    In fact, as you know, when using LaTeX, you must explicitly mark-up a period that is not a full-stop.

    I am a LaTeX fanatic!

  15. Supertradmum says:

    I spend most of my time (not this semester, sadly) teaching the MLA style sheet In the newest editions, only one space is asked for after the period. However, some colleges add on their style sheets a comment such as: “Unless your instructor asks for two spaces, use one…” This is because so many of us taught the two-space style for years. However, as MLA, APA, and Chicago-style all now accept one space, most teachers have switched as well. As I tell my students, the MLA style sheet has changed almost every two years in my career, as those dear people have nothing else to do. Seriously, MLA has greatly simplified the style over the years, for which I am grateful.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    Tim Ferguson,

    And, I hope you know you can thank Eric Gill for Perpetua, etc.

    Eric Gill’s types include:

    * Gill Sans (his most famous face and lasting legacy to typography 1927–1930)
    * Perpetua (1926)
    * Perpetua Greek (1929)[10]
    * Golden Cockerel Press Type (for the Golden Cockerel Press; 1929)
    * Solus (1929),
    * Joanna (based on work by Granjon; 1930– 1931)
    * Aries (1932)
    * Floriated Capitals (1932)
    * Bunyan (1934)
    * Pilgrim (recut version of Bunyan; 1953)
    * Jubilee (also known as Cunard; 1934)

    list from wiki…

  17. HyacinthClare says:

    Back before the world crusted over, when I was in undergraduate school, a woman named Kate Turabian wrote a book that was the law about periods and colons and all that sort of thing. I have hunted all over my library because I can’t believe I ever threw that book away, but I can’t find it. So I am having to say that according to my memory, she said two spaces after a period.

  18. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    My GC does the two space thing. I always correct it when sending out correspondence for work. Drives me crazy…!

  19. Joe in Canada says:

    Bah. I’ve never seen a word processing program yet that produces a more easily read text than a typewriter or a live person. It should be all about ease of readability. And the much-to-be-esteemed Mr Thompson seems slightly loose on the definition of atrocity. He doesn’t wince at all at the many clauses starting with conjunctions which he presents as sentences in his column (which, granted, is not a fault of typography but of syntax).

    As a twelve-year-old Altar server said once when the pastor suggested changes in how we used incense at Mass, “this is how we’ve always done it, this is how I’ll always do it.”

  20. Kat says:

    Two spaces are, indeed, an atrocity. I heartily wish people would stop using them. If your paragraphs look like they need more space, perhaps you ought to break them up in a better way or use fewer or shorter words. Trying to puff up your grafs like a cornered cat just makes you look silly. We’re not fooled.

    The biggest problem is always the consistency issue. Newsrooms use only one space. When you get an article written by a freelancer or columnist or a press release with periods followed by two spaces, you have to change it. It’s one more additional annoyance that may lead to the submitted piece simply being ignored next time.

  21. Mike Morrow says:

    I always use two spaces at sentence’s end. That’s the way I was taught 45 years ag0 in typing class, and it has greater aesthetic appeal.

    Discussions of this type often lead on to other controversial written language issues, like:
    (1) If a sentence ends with words in quotes, does the period go inside or outside the quote marks? (I choose OUTSIDE (it’s the logical thing). I was taught otherwise in typing class.)
    (2) If a clause ends with words in quotes, does the comma go inside or outside the quote marks? (I choose OUTSIDE (it’s the logical thing). I was taught otherwise in typing class.)
    (3) In a list of three or more items separated by commas, is a comma used to separate the last from the second to last items (“the dog, cat, and bird” OR “the dog, cat and bird”). That’s the serial (series, Harvard, Oxford) comma issue, and Wikipedia has an amusing entry about it. (I always use the serial comma. It’s both the logical and the civilized thing.)

    It’s surprising how strong opinions on such usage issues can be, especially among folks who are educated well enough to appreciate literacy in written language even in everyday usage. Such people are a small minority today. I won’t even mention the abominations arising from e-mail and “texting” shortcuts, which are clearly pathological.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    On punctuation and quotation marks–MLA puts these on the inside. However, the British put these on the outside, although in our age on Internet writing, that is changing. So, “I know this is correct,” is correct. So is this: “Mary quoted Hacker on the use of periods.” And, I apologize to the Turabian fans, but she is not accepted in most colleges and universities as she is dated.

  23. Soler says:

    Personally, I am in the exact same position as Catholicofthule. I never even knew that some people used two spaces until now.

  24. tzard says:

    I take umbrage at the assertion that it’s “plain wrong”. As it has some historical basis, and non-proportional typefaces were still not uncommon 20 years ago, it’s frustrating that some people get so worked-up over such things. Just emphasize that it should be changed – education, rather than rage! An editor or publisher can of course require any standard they want, but just mark it up, build a bridge, and get over it.

    I think I will keep using double spaces. In a similar vein, I’ll also use three spaces on an address line before the zip code. I also recommend using Comic Sans or Papyrus for your everyday font too! (mischievous grin).

  25. Supertradmum says:

    And, for those interested ones–If I had omitted “although” above, I would use a semicolon in place of the conjunction. And, dashes are completely tacky.

  26. PghCath says:

    I went with the “I adjust according to the purpose” option. I think that one space is the way to go – more visually appealing, less wasted space (and paper). That said, I belong to the legal profession, where the visual presentation of the written word is an obsession. (I once had a law school professor who refused to grade papers written in sans-serif fonts.) As most judges and law partners are older people who are used to the two space convention, I use that at work.

  27. pelerin says:

    Soler says that he/she never knew that some people used two spaces after a full stop. I never knew until reading this that some people used only one space after a full stop! I learnt the two spaces at secretarial school and have always used this method.

  28. PghCath says:

    BTW, Downton Abbey is on my DVR; I hope it’s good. My wife and I just watched the last episode of “As Time Goes By” on DVD, and we need more British television to fill the void. . .

  29. Charivari Rob says:

    When I type, I use two spaces after the period at the end of a sentence.

    That is what I learned when I was first formed. Nobody asked me if it needed changing. Now that I’ve been told that it changed, I’m going to go on doing what I’ve always done. If it was good enough for most of the Saints in Heaven, I think I’m not doing myself any harm by sticking… Oops. Sorry – I accidentally copy&pasted that from an EF/OF Mass debate.

    Slightly more seriously – this is wrong because the typesetters say so? Because of their sense of aesthetics? Isn’t that like them telling a composer that they can’t set a song in chant notation – that it must be represented in “conventional” treble/bass staff musical notation?

    Just slightly more seriously than that – isn’t it a logical fallacy to say that the practice that started with typewriters is in error because it doesn’t closely follow the style considerations of printing with movable type? Typewriting is something different than printing with movable type – it shouldn’t necessarily have to conform to the same considerations. Also, a question that was (mostly) not asked in the linked articles – what do the style manuals for handwritten prose say about spacing between sentences as opposed to spacing between words?

  30. Fr Matthew says:

    My high school typing teacher firmly inculcated me with the two-space rule, and I will probably continue to use it. Although when it comes to whether or not punctuation goes inside or outside the quotation marks, I rebelled against what I was taught and put the punctuation inside the quotes only if it is actually part of what I am quoting, because it just plain makes sense. So I type: Mary asked, “What are you doing?” Whereas I would type: what does it mean to “tweet”? I’m also a serial comma user. So I guess I’m of the same school as Mike Morrow, described in his comment above.

  31. arotron theou says:

    Christians invented punctuation. Therefore punctuation is revealed by God. The best usage after a sentence-ending period, question mark, or exclamation mark is self-evidently the two-space usage. This evokes the co-equal and co-eternal Trinity. An alternate theology, not to be despised, is that this evokes the Trisagion. A single space is Arian-inspired. Anathema sit! I hold to the divine and holy two-space rule! All praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, who taught our forefather copyists to insert two spaces in their manuscripts, for the erudition of the orthodox and the confounding of heretics!

  32. Supertradmum says:

    Sadly, this is taking over, which is the big enemy of us lowly writing instructors–AUB AATK ADBB AWYR wgas

  33. Kat says:

    @Charivari Rob

    Your second paragraph brings up an interesting point. Actually, those of us who are in the one-space camp are those who were here first, were we not? After all, in handwriting, one only leaves one space, and in printing one only used one space. It wasn’t until the typewriter came that we started to use two spaces.

    Personally, I don’t really go for the “Spirit of the Typewriter” argument, but you might feel more inclined. And, yes, if you must not ask, in grade school I was taught to use two spaces as well. But then I learned how it used to be done and how the theological typological experts believe it should be, and I mended my ways.

  34. Okay, fine about one space after a period.

    Let’s get on to something far more important: the failure to put spaces between the periods in ellipsis marks in English. I know this is not done in Spanish, French, or Italian. But it is the rule in English when the font set has no single character for the ellipsis mark. In which case a space is still inserted before and after.

  35. IL Catholic says:

    2 spaces all the time and 2 reasons.

    1. That’s what I was taught in school and at home.
    2. It improves readability.

  36. I use two spaces most of the time, since that’s what my thumb is trained to do. However, when I run out of room (Twitter, argh) that extra space is the first to go; I do that, then go to abbreviating or eliminating words.

  37. Supertradmum says:

    Father Augustine,

    You are correct. There are spaces between the periods in the ellipses (plu.) in English . Remember to add a fourth one if you have eliminated a sentence, or more than one sentence.

  38. Joe in Canada is exactly right, typewritten text is usually more readable. I say that as someone who spends many hours a month reading older, typewritten documents.

    My REAL problem with Damian’s article is the implication that the typewriter is some sort of museum piece! I have one in my office, and use it regularly (though not for high volume typing).
    For filling out forms and typing labels it simply can’t be beat.

  39. Charivari Rob says:

    arotron theou – “Christians invented punctuation. Therefore punctuation is revealed by God…”

    We might do well to tread carefully here. Maybe we’re going about it all wrong.

    Remember – “In The Beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    Is punctuation divinely inspired?

    Could it be another example of how we humans get into trouble when we try to take the Word and parse down what it means and where it applies, sticking in our punctuation to break it apart and adding spaces as if we can make the Word more palatable by inserting filler?

    - or -

    Is it simply acknowledgment of our fallen state and God’s divine nature that we can’t quite grasp the Word in its singular Totality and therefore need to build an experience & understanding of the Word through the many smaller words, phrases, clauses, etc… which are the stuff of which Earthly life is writ?

  40. A. J. D. S. says:

    I was never taught one way or the other in school, and I have always used only one space after periods. It never occurred to me to use two, and I still can’t quite see the sense in it.

    I have found that people get pretty passionate about this for some reason. Maybe us single-spacers feel cheated—”If only I had known that I could have more easily met the page requirement in word-processed essays by using a legitimate double space after my periods!”

  41. Jordanes says:

    Not that this matters in the least . . . but I was taught in grade school and high school that you put two spaces after a period and after a colon, but one space after a comma and semi-colon. But I have learned that with newspapers, the style rule is one space in all cases. That is just to save newsprint — paper ain’t cheap. Since I was taught the two-spaces-after-a-period rule, that is what I do. What newspapers do or don’t do is their business, but as others have said, we were taught the two-spaces rule in school and it does improve readability.

    Clearly there must not be anything important going on in the Church or the world for Damian Thompson to be going on a tear about this.

  42. Supertradmum says:


    The change is not just for newsprint, but for ease and simplicity. As I noted above, the three main style sheets, MLA, APA, and Chicago have all changed to the one space. Part of the change is the computer and computer research, which have greatly simplified scholarship and typing. If you go back to college or a university, you will be asked to follow one or the other of the style sheets. aih

  43. Maria says:

    I really don’t mind so long as the message is clear.

    What bugs me is when someone uses an apostophe in the wrong manner, such as, ……………………….. Joseph’s shoes were far too tight for him.


  44. Gail F says:

    Two spaces after a period is no longer the standard. It was indeed the standard in typewriter days (when I learned to type), but the age of word processing changed all that. Type automatically sets with a different size space after each period, depending on the font/typeface. If a publisher wants more or less space, the art director/designer can change that throughout the document IF it is spaced uniformly. So, as I understand it, that’s the reason for the one space rule — unless it was just to match British style. But the Brits do stupid things like put commas outside quotation marks and use the word “which” when they should obviously use “that,” so I hope that is not the reason.

    I am a professional writer, and one space after a period is the current standard in all style manuals that I’m aware of. And as a former editor, let me tell you it is really annoying to take out all the extra spaces when a manuscript is submitted with two!

  45. Luke says:

    I use two spaces after periods, even though I know it’s wrong, because it makes my term papers slightly longer. In turn, this keeps me from having to do slighly less work. Is that a sin?

  46. Laurinda1230 says:

    When you handwrite a sentence do you move over just one space or is it a bit more? I challenge all of you one-spacers to write a paragraph and then measure the space between words in the sentence and the space between the punctuation and your next sentence. I am betting it is a bit more than one space there! Which is why I was taught in school to double space after the end of a sentence. I have never had anyone correct me or tell me if it is wrong. And if html automatically deletes that extra space I’m not going to worry about it either. This paragraph will look nice and bunchy to your eyes because of it!

  47. Luke says:

    I must learn to use the “preview” button. The above should say “slightly more work.”

  48. mjd07 says:

    I always use one space after a full stop as that is what I was taught to do at school.

  49. joan ellen says:

    I like 1 space. It is quicker. Though maybe time is not saved for the reader.
    If the space between paragraphs were shorter, perhaps that could save time for the reader. :)

  50. Most of us are never going to submit anything for professional publication, so for us it doesn’t matter. Those of us getting paid by their teachers with grades, or paid money for writing by editors, should rightfully submit to the work rules of their masters.

    But in my heart, this sentence ends with two spaces. Whether or not you can see them.

  51. Alice says:

    *Cleans Mystic Monk Coffee off her monitor* Best Mystic Monk advertisement EVAR, Father Z!

  52. @Laurinda1230-what is that thing you speak of called h-a-n-d-w-r-t-i-n-g ?

  53. asophist says:

    Lots of interesting opinions here, but not one reference to the long-accepted standard for such matters: Strunk & White’s excellent handbook, “The Elements of Style” (which should be the last word on this subject). I’m not going to quote it here as I don’t happen to have it on hand at the office, but you can bet I will look up this subject in that venerable work when I get home!

  54. jflare says:

    I agree with Fr. Matt; I learned 2 spaces after periods in typing class in high school and keeping punctuation outside quotes when appropriate.
    Although MS Word will note this as an error, I’ve never assumed that Microsoft held the final authority with regard to punctuation use, and I’ve NEVER heard anyone tell me that any standard had changed.
    Until I hear from some competent authority in the matter, I don’t think I’ll change.

    I’d be a bit surprised if most people pay enough attention to two spaces or one to make a difference anyway…..

  55. QMJ says:

    I was taught to use two spaces after a period when I was in junior high and high school. When I got to graduate school I put childish things away and started using only one space.

  56. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Since I also learned on a manual typewriter in the dim and distant past, and since my thumb also has been trained to thump two spaces for the last 65 years, I dunno. I suppose I could re-train the brain to make the thumb thump once. However, when I get going at a brisk pace, I know I’ll waste time backspacking at the end of every blasted sentence!!!

  57. Using two spaces is a convention. If one does not use two spaces, it isn’t wrong, nor is using two spaces wrong. I suppose if we view writing in general as an approximation and representation of speech then writing with the Latin alphabet is also just one of many writing conventions we use and can not be said to be either correct or wrong in the same way that “the boy is” would be considered objectively correct according to grammar but “the boy are” is considered wrong.

    I have had to argue many times over the use of the letter J when writing in Latin. There are many people who feel that it is just wrong, always wrong and can never be accepted. I do not agree with this view. I don’t care about if Cicero used it or not, I don’t care if the new Vulgate from the 20th century uses it or not. It improves readability and I like it so I will use it. I would write Latin in the Coptic alphabet if I thought it would make the language easier to read and understand.

    Consider this fact for a moment, some Latinists will only use capital letters, while others will use only lower case letters. Who is right? I wouldn’t want to read either. The version of Harry Potter translated into Latin uses only lower case letters unless a proper name is used. In German they capitalize all the nouns.

    People get too picky about these writing conventions. If you have to write something for someone else to read, then think about your audience and make your writing as easy to read and understand as possible. If you are writing for yourself, then why should you care what others do? Do what you like, there is no right or wrong in this.

    And as a last note, I know some might say that I am being too liberal here, that this way of thinking is just one more attack on the time tested traditions of the past, an attack on morality. I can not disagree with that more. Do not equate punctuation rules with abortion or divorce. They are lightyears apart. I seriously don’t think that God cares if you put one space or two after a sentence. Does God care if you kill someone, yes. Does God care if you change the words of the Cannon, yes. Does God care if you capitalize the word Car just because it is a noun, I sure hope not. I seriously hope that God is bigger than that.

  58. Supertradmum says:


    Does God care if you put one space or two in a sentence? He cares is it is a question of obeying one’s teacher (me) in a class teaching MLA.

  59. brassplayer says:

    Don’t really care what a bunch of typesetters or Style Manuals have to say.

    As someone who does a lot of technical editing, two spaces after a period produces text that is just far easier to read. A little white space does wonders, IMO.

  60. brassplayer says:

    Fr Matthew wrote:

    Although when it comes to whether or not punctuation goes inside or outside the quotation marks, I rebelled against what I was taught and put the punctuation inside the quotes only if it is actually part of what I am quoting, because it just plain makes sense.

    I agree 1000%. Inserting punctuation into a quote just because of some arbitrary rule seems quite presumptuous on my part.

    For example, imagine if Sally said “I don’t feel well.” Is it really accurate to write:

    Sally said “I don’t feel well,” and then fell over.

    Sally didn’t say “I don’t feel well (comma)” She said “I don’t feel well (period)

    Why am I adding a comma to Sally’s quote when she didn’t say it in the first place?

  61. Rachel Pineda says:

    Wow, two spaces! Whoever heard of such a thing!
    Two spaces feels completely unnatural to me while typing because in primary school it was drilled into our heads that two spaces after a period was, an atrocity.

  62. Supertradmum says:

    Are all traddies really anarchists? I find this discussion very illuminating. Scholarship has rules, such as no plagiarism, research skills, and consistent grammar. Punctuation by definition has rules. And I thought my ghetto kids were stroppy. . .They seem strangely compliant today.

  63. Rachel Pineda says:

    Or I should say is, an atrocity. Tsk, tsk. This is going to be tough to overlook while reading your blog.

  64. Rachel Pineda says:

    @ Supertradmum

    “Are all traddies really anarchists? I find this discussion very illuminating. Scholarship has rules, such as no plagiarism, research skills, and consistent grammar. Punctuation by definition has rules. And I thought my ghetto kids were stroppy. . .They seem strangely compliant today.”

    You don’t say! I’m going to have to try very hard to refrain from having a pat on the back moment about this.

  65. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    @Supertradmum – you forgot Lapidary in your Eric Gill list. A truly excellent font, a slightly heavier version of Perpetua.

  66. Legisperitus says:

    If I had ever been going to consider changing to a single space (which I wasn’t), Damian’s attitude would virtually ensure that I would do the opposite of what he intends. Double spaces nunc et semper!

  67. J Kusske says:

    Legisperitus, I’m afraid the “biological solution” will be kicking in fairly soon, and the double-spacers won’t be around beyond a few more decades–nunc perhaps, but not semper. But I’m sure God will have a nice place hereafter for you all (He is the Word after all!)

    As for the other issues, I’m of the Mike/Fr. Matthew school of punctuation outside quotation marks and serial commas. Like them, I agree it’s clearly the logical course, whether or not it’s British. Common sense and rationality ought to be the first consideration, not following a set of rules in a legalistic way–punctuation was made for man, not man for punctuation!

  68. Supertradmum says:

    Maybe this discussion should be moved to the problem of Catholic education on the other line. I can imagine trying to teach high school AP students MLA with parents at the door complaining about grammar rules interfering with grades. No thanks!

  69. Rules for punctuation and quotations marks certainly differ between American and British English. I am with those that regard what basically amounts to the British English rules as more logical.

  70. Supertradmum says:

    Me, too, Catholicofthule, but right now I live and sometimes teach in America. When I taught in England, obviously I taught English punctuation and spelling rules. When I write quickly, I revert to the British manner, as it does seem more logical and, therefore, more natural.

  71. Mary G says:

    I use two spaces. That is the way I learned many years ago, and do not intend to change now that I am older. It just does it itself – automatically.

  72. green fiddler says:

    You all are too funny… thanks for the laughs!

    I’ve always used two spaces and consider myself too old to learn new tricks. When eyesight begins to fade, reading is easier if there is more space between sentences.

    Years ago I applied for a position which required a data entry test. Some time later my supervisor told me that my score was zero… even though I was accurate in typing all the characters, the machine which corrected me did not like my additional spaces at the end of every line.

  73. marcpuckett says:

    My brain is just catching up to having seen this, and I forget who posted the comment I’m thinking of. Two spaces after a colon? Does anyone else use two spaces after a colon? perhaps that’s a British usage?

    Off the specific topic. I notice more and more often that the initial letter of the word following a colon is capitalised; when did that bad habit begin?

  74. Supertradmum says:


    As a teacher, it is my job to point out that in the APA style, capitals are always used after colons. In the MLA, capital letters occur where the colon is followed by an independent clause. In the Chicago
    style, capitalization is used only when the colon introduces two or more complete sentences. You are probably used to seeing lists after colons all in lower case. My guess is that the use of capital letters will become more and more standardized so that only capitals will be accepted as time goes by.

  75. Supertradmum says:

    P.S. What I have described are American rules. And, I do not know why the large space occurred in the above answer, except that I am ruffled because I just dropped my laptop.

  76. jflare says:

    I learned two spaces after periods (ending sentences) and colons; one space after commas and semi-colons. If the standard has changed, it’s news to me. BTW: WHO changed it?
    PS. I’m American and learned this in America in high school; it was backed by college too.

    @supertradmum: ‘Fraid I need some edumucating here: What on earth does your alphabet soup from much earlier mean? I couldn’t form any words from it?

    @Maria: Your sentence with an apostrophe looked pretty normal to me. It indicates that the shoes belonged to Joe. I thought that was pretty standard English grammar.

  77. Joan M says:

    “After all, in handwriting, one only leaves one space” – wrong!! :-) I suppose it would be determined by what you were taught. I am one of those who has always used two spaces after a period while typing (and I consider what I do on the keyboard of my laptop to be typing, not “keyboarding”, which I deem an atrocious word!!

    As others have commented, at least most of us use a larger space after a period than we do between words within a sentence.

    Since I have been handwriting for about 63 – 64 years, having learned at age 4, and typing for 50 years, having learned at 17, I have no intention whatever of changing the habit of two spaces after a period and a colon. If I should ever have anything of mine published, that would be the publisher’s problem, not mine!

  78. Tim says:

    What I always understood was that when typing (on a typewriter) you should leave two spaces after a full stop. When using electronic text the programme justifies the space itself therefore only one space is necessary after a full stop. Since I learned that on my Information Science course I have kept to that practice.

  79. Kat says:

    LOL, Fr. Z. The podcast is wonderful, and a perfect cap to a silly argument. Grammatical discussions always end thus, with one group saying, well, but here are the rules, and the other saying, yes, but this is what I’ve always done. It’ll never end, and that’s probably a good thing. We need a bit of laughter in our lives.

  80. I find the additional space between sentences makes them easier to read. I automatically add the extra space, without thought, and will most likely continue to do so. Even with the knowledge that HTML strips out superfluous white space by default, I’m incapable of not putting them in there. It just “feels” wrong when typing to put in only one space.

    However, I don’t get all up in arms about the presence (or lack thereof) of the extra space. It really doesn’t matter. If the text looks “squished” because of the lack of space, though, it can sometimes strain the eyes, which might cause me to stop reading.

    By the way, I never took a typing class (nor “keyboarding”). So it’s not training, but habit.

    On a final note, I don’t see the problem that newspapers and typesetters have. How hard is it to run articles through a filter that screens out extra white space? It’s already handled by other systems. How is potential trailing whitespace handled? Surely there’s some check for that. And what if someone accidentally inserts two spaces between two words in the middle of a sentence? I doubt they are printing directly from a word processing program, so articles run through a translator as it is. Automated formatting sanity checks should already be in place, so modify them slightly to handle extra whitespace between sentences. It would be foolish for them to not have checks in place, to expect that all submitted articles will properly adhere to submission guidelines.

  81. priest up north says:

    Interesting post and poll question – which I did not answer because there is no option that fits my circumstance…thought it confirms my need to go to using one space.
    In the process of preparing a series of bulletin inserts, my secretary alerted me to this “one-space” rule (I had always used two). Now, to break myself of a habit that goes back all these years since I learned to type in 10th grade is another story…

  82. priest up north says:

    My previous post shows I need practice at proof reading ;)

  83. carl b says:

    Not that two spaces is particularly heinous, but I was born in ’87 and grew up with computers and not typewriters, and so have always used a single space. The two space ‘problem’ will be solved by the biological solution. :P

  84. Gail F says:

    Re: Quotation marks

    In America, all punctuation goes inside quotation marks. The way to remember that is “All punctuation belongs to the word it follows.” See? The period belongs with the word, even though it ends the sentence and the sentence is quoted inside another sentence.

    Re: Other conventions

    Someone mentioned caps in Latin. We learn to write using “lower case” and “upper case” letters, but these are actually two separate alphabets. (If you can both print and write, you know FOUR separate alphabets!) Eventually, people started mixing the alphabets to make text easier to read. But that is why Latin was originally written in all caps — that was the only alphabet there was. It was used on wax styluses and stone inscriptions, and the letters are designed for that — they are simpler to make with a chisel or similar tool, and many are composed of only straight lines. Lower case print letters were designed for writing on other surfaces; you’ll note that they are easier and quicker to write with a pencil or pen. Script alphabets were designed for professional secretaries, who needed to write very quickly. They were never meant to be as easy to read as print alphabets, which is why to this day no one uses them for books. Thus endeth the paleography lesson for today.

  85. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    Any way, O dear Fr Z, I think it was jolly unfair to moderate my message out just because I described the author of the original article (whom I know) as a ‘self-acclaimed “blood-crazed ferret”,’ when this is exactly the phrase he proudly attributes to himself on the head of his Blog :

    I thought my serious point about the desire he expresses to return to a pre-typewriter-age orthography, now that we have socially matured from such decadent expedients, indeed a parallel with Archbishop Bugnini’s erroneous desire to return the Mass to the “pure” liturgy of the early Church.

  86. Aaron B. says:

    I use a WordPress plugin called “Remove Double Space,” so I don’t have to retrain myself to type a single space. The problem with the double space in many web editors is that they assume extra spaces are intended as horizontal padding, so it represents them in HTML with the non-breakable space character ‘(ampersand)nbsp;’, as someone mentioned earlier. So you get (space)(non-breakable space) between sentences when you double-space.

    In HTML rendering, the normal space character will be shrunken down to nearly nothing (or maybe actual nothing), so you won’t see a difference. It only becomes visible when the break between sentences happens to coincide with a new line. The non-breakable space then becomes the first character on the new line, indenting your text slightly. If you’re picky, it’s annoying to have a line here and there in the middle of a paragraph indented just a bit. The plugin I mentioned converts them to single spaces instead, eliminating that issue.

  87. Legisperitus says:

    In legal writing, the “Harvard Blue Book” rule is that when punctuation marks are not part of the original quoted material, “tall” punctuation marks (question mark, colon, semicolon, exclamation point) go outside the quotes, but periods or commas go inside the quotes for aesthetic reasons.

  88. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Can anyone expand upon Choirmaster’s attention (sixth response) to “professional typographical convention” throughout (English-language) printing history, and its points of meeting with styles of punctuation?

    I.e., e.g., as the spacing between words within lines varies in achieving a straight right-hand margin (more or less aesthetically pleasingly, and skillfully), does that always, or often, or ever, involve an invariable convention as to how much space follows after a full-stop?

    I suspect that I vary my own practice ‘by eye’, even with a ‘ragged’ right-hand margin, unless empatically style-sheet-style-bound by a particular editor. Is that unusual?

  89. RichardT says:

    Two spaces for me. I’m a self-taught typist, but just preferred the way it looks.

    Now, after nearly 20 years, I can’t change.

    It annoys publishers (at least British ones), because they have to remove them. But with modern technology that is a fairly easy job.

  90. rhetoric57 says:

    I am amazed at the die-hard postions this simple topic has unleashed!

    To the entrenched double-spacers: you learned to type so many years ago on a tripewriter, not a computer, which can — used sensibly/intelligently — employ justified spacing. You do NOT NEED DOUBLE SPACING, that is so 20th century… Say after me again: YOU DO NOT NEED…

    Getting a manuscript, usually in Word, and editing a book, using Quark Xpress (and the same would apply to InDesign as well, I guess), one of the first things I do is to invoke a global text extermination of all double spaces (takes but a few seconds, and generally shows hundreds, if not thousands of instances corrected); then any properly kerned and aligned text will recreate what the double spacing was invoked for back in the (far off, RIP) day of the Royal/Imperial/IBM typewriter.

    Placing of quotes: English and US usage differ. Punkt.

    Spelling conventions too: I prefer an S spelling, not a Zee (sorry FrZ, I apologise…) Similarly I learnt/was taught a stop is not needed after an abbreviation that ends with the same letter as the word: so Mrs rather than Mrs. or the increasingly common Ms., ditto Dr rather than Dr. or St rather than Street or Saint — in the latter the context will tell you which is implied. Similarly, today the period/stop has been elided in eg and ie, rather than e.g. or i.e. or even e stop space g stop… etc.

    Heck, at this rate are we ever going to get agreement on the new ICEL?

    Pax – rhetoric57

  91. jdscotus says:

    Hmm. I’m not so sure that typewriters were responsible for the double space after a period. There were various opinions as to how much space should come between a period and the next sentence. Henry Thomas Loomit counseled three spaces after a period. Others were vague and noted that the space should be greater than that of a colon. If you want a visual example of what text looked like back when, check out Google Books and look up something from the 18th Century. It appears to me that double-spacing was the common method even in the 18th Century. I have to admit that this discussion has intrigued me quite a bit and I tend to agree that the single space option is the more appealing visually to me.

  92. Supertradmum says:


    Look at my earlier entries as to who changed the spacing. And,

    @supertradmum: ‘Fraid I need some edumucating here: What on earth does your alphabet soup from much earlier mean? I couldn’t form any words from it?

    Look those up in a text dictionary online. GUDPM

  93. bbmoe says:

    I can’t believe I’m wasting my time replying, but since I’m the only person I know who taught herself how to touch-type after the age of 45 (in English) and is in the process of learning how to TT in Hebrew, I can tell you, anyone who has the eyes to glance at a page, see that there are two spaces after the periods, and actually have the time to consider whether this is something to get aggravated about, has an embarrassment of riches where I have an embarrassment of wants.

    If it’s readable, do it.

    Oh, look at that: there are no double spaces.

    Sheesh. And Downton Abbey is my new guilty pleasure. I did the happy dance when Mr. Pamuk went all Nelson Rockefeller, although I was disappointed that the writers didn’t work it out so that Mary could put his shoes on backwards.

  94. jflare says:

    Um, are we all talking about the same thing here?
    Last I knew, “double-spaced” referred to placing a blank line between sentences as you typed down a page. This is not the same as placing two spaces after a sentence-ending period?

  95. Mrs. O says:

    Aesthetically, the double space after the period allows the sentences and paragraphs to not look so crammed. We know that college students, or at least some students, would love to put MORE spaces where some would love to cram and remove all spaces! Even in handwriting, we allow a space to denote the end of the thought and moving onto another. There are some fonts that do not need any extra spaces. It also allows teachers to put notes, indications, etc. I have to admit, when I read a paragraph without the double space at the end, it appears crammed. And I do wonder if the person was unable to stick with the word limit (paraphrase successfully) or just…crammed.
    I prefer the double space especially if I were grading papers.

  96. Hans says:

    Two spaces after a period makes the text more readable, while having only one looks horrible and awful. Full stop.

  97. Patti Day says:

    What is wrong with Joseph’s shoes? Are not Joseph’s shoes possessed by him? Were there many Josephs? Wouldn’t that be, ‘All Josephs have shoes’?

    Downton Abbey, It’s so Upstairs Downstairs! I’m glad Bates stopped using that horrid leg brace, but it was bespoke, and probably cost many months wages. I was thinking it might be retrieved and made into a very handsome tomato cage.

  98. Alice says:

    Not all of us who were trained with double spaces after periods learned to type before the advent of computers. My friend and I, who discovered that single spaces were now the norm last year when we were writing graduate papers, haven’t even reached the Roman average life expectancy! Believe me, nobody used a typewriter when we were in college and double spacing after periods. I tend to still use two spaces unless I consciously try to do otherwise. So, if I’m writing a research paper according to the accepted style manual for my discipline, I’ll use a single space. If I’m writing a comment on Father Z’s blog, I’ll probably use two spaces, just out of habit.

    And, I’m wondering what’s wrong with Joseph’s shoes too. Was the example sentence supposed to have shoe’s instead of Joseph’s? I’ve seen people do that. It used to drive me nuts when the Secretary at the School Where I Used to Work put in Random Capital Letter’s and Apostrophe’s. Even musicians are expected to learn how to write correctly! :P

  99. ericrun says:

    I’d come across this before, and switched.

    I think I actually tested, and found that Internet browsers eliminate extra spaces.

    I’ll test it here:
    Test. 2 spaces here.
    Test. 1 space here.
    If you notice a difference in the space size after those periods, then your browser shows both spaces. If the spacing is identical, then your browser eliminates the extra space.