one space between sentencesAlways one—
never two

Some top­ics in this book will of­fer you choices. Not this one.

Al­ways put ex­actly one space be­tween sentences.

Or more gen­er­ally: put ex­actly one space af­ter any punctuation.

Here’s a para­graph with one space be­tween sentences:

I know that many peo­ple were taught to put two spaces be­tween sen­tences. I was too. But these days, us­ing two spaces is an ob­so­lete habit. Some say the habit orig­i­nated in the type­writer era. Oth­ers be­lieve it be­gan ear­lier. But guess what? It doesn’t mat­ter. Be­cause ei­ther way, it’s not part of to­day’s ty­po­graphic prac­tice. If you have to use a type­writer-style font, you can use two spaces af­ter sen­tences. (These are also known as mono­spaced fonts.) Oth­er­wise, don’t.

Now the same para­graph, but with two spaces be­tween sentences:

I know that many peo­ple were taught to put two spaces be­tween sen­tences.  I was too.  But these days, us­ing two spaces is an ob­so­lete habit.  Some say the habit orig­i­nated in the type­writer era.  Oth­ers be­lieve it be­gan ear­lier.  But guess what?  It doesn’t mat­ter.  Be­cause ei­ther way, it’s not part of to­day’s ty­po­graphic prac­tice.  If you have to use a type­writer-style font, you can use two spaces af­ter sen­tences.  (These are also known as mono­spaced fonts.)  Oth­er­wise, don’t.

I could tell you that in the sec­ond para­graph, the ex­tra spaces dis­rupt the bal­ance of white space. I could warn you that mul­ti­plied across a whole page, “rivers” of white space can ap­pear. But mostly, one space is the well-set­tled cus­tom of pro­fes­sional ty­pog­ra­phers. You don’t need to like it. You only need to ac­cept it.

And one more time, in a type­writer-style font, the one case where two spaces are tol­er­a­ble (though still unnecessary):

I know that many peo­ple were taught to put two spaces be­tween sen­tences.  I was too.  But these days, us­ing two spaces is an ob­so­lete habit.  Some say the habit orig­i­nated in the type­writer era.  Oth­ers be­lieve it be­gan ear­lier.  But guess what?  It doesn’t mat­ter.  Be­cause ei­ther way, it’s not part of to­day’s ty­po­graphic prac­tice.  If you have to use a type­writer-style font, you can use two spaces af­ter sen­tences.  (These are also known as mono­spaced fonts.) Oth­er­wise, don’t.

I have no idea why so many writ­ers re­sist the one-space rule. If you’re skep­ti­cal, pick up any book, news­pa­per, or mag­a­zine and tell me how many spaces there are be­tween sentences.

Cor­rect—one.

by the way

Still skep­ti­cal? You’re not alone, though the pop­u­la­tion of doubters is de­clin­ing. The ob­jec­tions—trust me, I’ve heard them all—sort out into these ma­jor themes:

You made up this so-called rule.

No. In ad­di­tion to be­ing the cus­tom of pro­fes­sional ty­pog­ra­phers, one space is the con­sen­sus of ty­pog­ra­phy au­thor­i­ties. No one has yet shown me con­trary au­thor­ity. For instance—

“Use a sin­gle word space be­tween sen­tences. … Your typ­ing as well as your type­set­ting will ben­e­fit from un­learn­ing [the] quaint Vic­to­rian habit” of us­ing two spaces be­tween sentences.

Robert Bringhurst, The El­e­ments of Ty­po­graphic Style (4th ed.), p. 29.

“[O]ne space be­tween words and one space af­ter punc­tu­a­tion marks (in­clud­ing colons and periods).”

Bryan A. Gar­ner, The Red­book: A Man­ual on Le­gal Style (3rd ed.), sec­tion 4.12.

“Chicago ad­vises leav­ing a sin­gle char­ac­ter space, not two spaces, be­tween sen­tences and af­ter colons used within a sen­tence … .”

The Chicago Man­ual of Style (16th ed.), rule 2.9.

That’s fine for pub­li­ca­tions, but judges still pre­fer two spaces.

“Put only one space af­ter punc­tu­a­tion. The type­writer con­ven­tion of type spaces is for mono­spaced type only.”

United States Court of Ap­peals for the Sev­enth Cir­cuit, Re­quire­ments and Sug­ges­tions for Ty­pog­ra­phy in Briefs and Other Pa­pers, page 5.

I think two spaces look bet­ter, so that’s what I’m go­ing to use.

I’m telling you the rule. If you’d rather rely on per­sonal taste, I can’t stop you. But per­sonal taste doesn’t re­peal the rule. It’s like say­ing “I don’t care for sub­junc­tive-mood verbs, so I’ll pre­tend they don’t ex­ist.” Yet they do. As with gram­mar, spelling, and us­age, read­ers won’t de­tect the dif­fer­ence be­tween a prin­ci­pled de­par­ture from con­ven­tion and will­ful ignorance.

Every law­yer I know with uses two spaces.

A core prin­ci­ple of this book is that le­gal doc­u­ments are sub­ject to the same rules of ty­pog­ra­phy as other pro­fes­sional pub­li­ca­tions. If you agree, then the fact that law­yers ha­bit­u­ally di­verge from these rules is ir­rel­e­vant. If you don’t, then con­sider giv­ing this book to a friend.

Good ar­gu­ments can be made for both options.

Ex­cept that it’s not a mat­ter of ar­gu­ment. One op­tion has the sup­port of ty­pog­ra­phy au­thor­i­ties and pro­fes­sional prac­tice; the other does not. The is­sue is not am­bigu­ous. Maybe in forty or fifty years, the con­ven­tion will be dif­fer­ent. But that’s a topic for the tenth edi­tion of this book. For now—one space.

How can I change? I’ve been do­ing it wrong for so long!

Okay, no one’s quite said so di­rectly. But most ob­jec­tions I’ve heard to this rule (and oth­ers) boil down to in­er­tia. Ex­cuses like this serve only to im­pede learn­ing and pre­serve bad habits. If you want to learn about ty­pog­ra­phy, set them aside and ap­proach the rest of this book with an open mind.

I will, how­ever, en­dorse one exception:

My boss said I’ll get fired if I don’t use two spaces.

Then let it go. If you’re try­ing to in­still bet­ter ty­pog­ra­phy at the work­place, start with some­thing less provoca­tive. (Per­haps re­duc­ing the preva­lence of all caps?) 

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