NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, June 2004
Do You Use One Space or Two Spaces at the End of a Sentence?
by June Hall, Editor,
Windows on the Rockies User Group, Colorado

Like most people I was taught to use two spaces at the end of a sentence when using a typewriter. But when I started editing the company newsletter in the l980s, was taught to use one space at the end of a sentence in published material.

If you type the question at http://www.google.com, the websites are numerous and contain contradictory answers, replies, and opinions.

Original typewriters had monospaced fonts. Monospaced type is text produced by characters that are evenly spaced. A “W” takes up just as much room as an “l.” Thus, around skinny letters there was more space than around wide letters. To clear everything up, it was decided that an extra space should be added after a sentence to make it easier to see where one sentence ended and the next began.

In the very early days two spaces were also used in published material, but then along came the lead-casting Linotype machine. The linotype used wedges for spaces, rectangles for letters. Alter filling the line as close as possible, the operator would pull a handle, and the wedges would be forced upward, expanding (and thereby justifying) the line o’ type, which would then be cast in lead. If the operator typed two spaces in a row, you had two wedges next to each other, and that tended to gum up the operation. So only one space was used.

On Woodys Watch (http://www.woodyswatch.com), Woody told us about all the mail—friendly mail, angry mail, congratulatory mail, why-don’t-you-check-your-facts mail, my-teacher-taught-me-this-and-my-teacher-ain’t-stupid mail—he received after making a somewhat tongue–in-cheek remark about “cleaning up after people who inevitably type two spaces after every period.” Woody ended by stating if you want to sell what you write, use one period because that’s the way the industry works nowadays.

A copyeditor at The University of Chicago (Chicago Manual of Style) thinks, “In our efficient, modern world, there is not room for two spaces at the end of a sentence.”

Publishers want single spaces after periods. Most desktop publishers believe desktop publishing (electronic type-setting) should follow the commercial publishers rule, “One space at the end of a sentence.”

Two spaces can cause problems with line breaks in certain programs. Web pages use only one space between sentences. HTML is set up to only display one space no matter how many are typed. A browser, like Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, will only display one.

Some people using word processing state, "those of us who use word processing software are no longer typists but typographers. While our typewriter keyboards limited our capabilities in creating text, our word processors allow us to do what professional typesetters have been doing for centuries. Consequently, many of the rules we learned as typists do not apply in the world of word processing."

The majority of people who never do desktop publishing have no reason to change from using two spaces. Even some publishers prefer using two spaces in their personal correspondence and notes.

After getting used to using only one space at the end of a sentence in writing for published material, I use one space for everything—most everything. I have to watch myself if I type a letter for my husband as he wants two spaces. One of the first things I do when I receive an article for a news­letter is to go to Edit/Replace and put in two spaces to be replaced by one space.

I liked the website with the info below:

Should sentences be separated by one space or two spaces?


There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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