One or Two Spaces After a Period?

by Brian on February 2, 2010

If you ever took a typing class, you were likely taught that there should always be two spaces after a period before beginning the next sentence. But, if you look at most books, magazines and websites, you’ll notice that the majority of them only use one space.

Typewriter

So, which way is correct? One or two spaces after a period? The short answer is one space, but let us elaborate on why…

Typewriters use what is called a monospaced font, meaning all letters take up the exact same amount of space. That means an ‘i’ takes up the same amount of space as an ‘e’ does. So, in the time of typewriters, two spaces were used after a period to give a visual break to the reader, as a signal that a new sentence was beginning.

The font “Courier” is an example of a monospaced font:

–>

This is the Courier font.
It’s an example of a monospaced font, where each letter is the same width as
the next. You can see that each letter lines up perfectly with the one above it.

When computers were introduced, proportional fonts came as part of the package. With proportional fonts, an ‘i’ no longer takes up the same amount of space as an ‘e’ does. The fonts are programmed so that a single space provides plenty of spacing between two sentences.

From a design perspective, using two spaces after a period with a proportional font is often considered distracting to they eye. Big holes are left in the copy and the flow from one sentence to the next is broken.

So, the general rule of thumb is, only use one space after a period (or other punctuation like question marks and exclamation points) when you’re using a computer.

If you’re writing for the web, don’t worry if you slip up and use two spaces… HTML automatically ignores the second space and only publishes one space (you may see the double space in your preview, but when you hit publish the second space should be gone).

If you’re dead set on having two spaces after a period on a web page, you’ll have to hard code the HTML with “ ” to insert a second space. Hardly worth the hassle unless you’re trying to make a point…

What’s your favorite font to type in or read?

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