July 14, 2011
Disclaimer: This blog was typed using a single space between all sentences.
You wouldn’t think that the number of spaces typed after a period would ignite such an intense debate in our office, but it does. In addition, each person boasts with a distinct certainty that they’re right – think passionately charged chest beating with mild snarling.
Modern typographers tend to favor the one-space rule. Major style guides like the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style advise using a single space after a period. While the Publications Manual of American Psychological Association allows for two spaces in drafts, it still suggests one space in published work.
After some quick research, I discovered the issue became widespread with the introduction of the manual typewriter and its use of monospaced type, which dictates that every character occupy an equal amount of horizontal space. The result of monospaced type was uneven looking text and seas of white space between characters. Thus, the adoption of the two-space rule offered easier readability when typing with a manual typewriter. When electric typewriters and PCs (or Macs) debuted with proportional fonts, a modern and easier to read type, it eliminated the need for an extra space. But old habits are hard to break for some.
The readability argument is definitely debatable. And quite amusingly, people do argue over it. Just ask one of us at HMA! Aesthetics is typically the most commonly cited reason and generally the better argument. One space is much simpler and visually pleasing. Plus, it requires less work and wastes less paper (sustainable marketing, anyone?). A page congested with two spaces between each sentence looks wrong and stands out as an error to me.
Conversely, I’ve heard the exact same argument for two spaces, but who’s right and who’s wrong? And which do you prefer? One space or two?