I need my space space

19 May 2008

The second edition of the ‘Things that drive me up a wall’ series is something we’ve all encountered starting back in grade school.

Double Spaces after the end of a sentence. Is this really necessary? The answer is no. If you need two spaces to let the reader know that they’ve come to the end of a sentence, then why bother with the period and capitalization of the first letter of the next sentence. I find triple redundancy to be rather inefficient.

It always struck me as oddly unnecessary. From the day we started being taught to write and then to type, we were instructed to leave two spaces after the period. But why? I could never get an answer that satisfied me. So whenever possible I’d go the minimalist route of the single space, so long as I didn’t get caught (I was also the kid who would use 13 or 14 point type when I hadn’t written enough and 9.5 or 10 when I’d written too much. I was cranking up the leading before I knew what ‘leading’ was.) I’ve heard it dates back to typewriters or handwritten text or even the printing press. Regardless of where it came from, we have computers now. Once space is enough. Let the computer figure the rest out.

The Chicago Manual of Style is on my side.

There is a traditional American practice, favored by some, of leaving two spaces after colons and periods. This practice is discouraged by the University of Chicago Press, especially for formally published works and the manuscripts from which they are published.
Chicago Style Q&A: One Space or Two?

So this is a call, to all teachers, professors, educators and parents out there. Do the right thing. Teach your kids to use just one space. It’s the responsible thing to do. And think of how much paper you’ll be saving.