Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

How Many Spaces Should Follow a Period?

questionDo you prefer two spaces after a period or one?

If you’re like me – and by me I mean all right-minded people in the universe – you’re a single-spacer.

In fact, I was under the impression that this argument ended long ago with the demise of dot-matrix printers, monospaced fonts and old-school typesetting.

But no. Apparently the battle still rages.

Space Defenders Unite

My friend Patrick (an incurable double-spacer) sent me this screed from Above the Law from a law professor who thinks we singletons are simpletons. A year ago, the prof penned In Defense of Space, a self-described “manifesto about having two spaces after a period.”

Now he has doubled down by claiming science supports two spaces.

In support of this dubious premise, LawProfBlawg cites a study in which subjects were monitored with eye-tracking equipment as they read passages of text with single, double and zero-spaced sentences. Researchers found that their eyes lingered less over double-spaced sentences than the other variations.

And yet. Even the spaced-out professor admits the experiment doesn’t really settle anything. For one thing, the test subjects were students, and we all know that students’ eyes tend to linger in ways that differ from the general population. Even worse, the experiment used Courier font – yes, Courier font – which fatally contaminates the findings.

Single is Superior

Double-spacers say text is easier to digest with a little extra room. They say sentences should be allowed to breathe.

Give me a break. If your sentence is gasping for air, you need to rewrite it, not add more white space.

After all, the Associated Press Stylebook recommends one space. So does the Chicago Manual of Style and Writer’s Digest.

Some grammarians even get snarky about it, saying “nothing says over 40 like two spaces after a period.”

And wouldn’t you know it: psychologists want to have it both ways. The American Psychological Association stylebook recommends double spacing for draft manuscripts – to aid readability – even though the published product will be single-spaced.

As a risk manager, I would advise you to always defer to whatever style preferences are favored by your presiding judge or appellate court.

Meanwhile, we must hold firm to the single space. Otherwise, the double-troublemakers – who vow to keep fighting until the end punctuation – will win.

“[W]hile we appear to be losing the war, comrades, don’t give up hope,” writes LawProfBlawg. “Science has backed us.  Judges continue to back us, for the most part.  It is only a matter of time before our revolution will happen.  We will then march in the streets, with two spaces between us.”


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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