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Posted on 02.01.2011

One Space or Two?

A recent article by Farhad Manjoo of Slate.com struck a chord with me and sparked some spirited exchanges between some of my professional acquaintances. I don’t believe I can say it any better than Manjoo did in “Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period,” but the article reflects what I learned long ago in a concentrated course in typography; and never learned in typing, English or journalism. It makes complete sense that we might now abandon a practice that came about in the age of the mono-spacing manual typewriter. The double space has long been the bane of typographers forced to painstakingly remove the extra spaces from copy for printed publications. Take a close look at published books, magazines and newspapers and note the consistent use of a single space at the end of the sentences. Many publishers’ submission standards, in fact, require the single space in manuscripts. For many years, we’ve had access to sophisticated programs that adjust kerning and make other typographic improvements for us automatically, invisibly, as part of their user-friendly interface. Throughout my career, however, I’ve worked with several associates married to the “two spaces” practice. It’s amazing how strongly people feel about this debate! I have, at times, attempted to be a two-space writer to conform to the style of clients or supervisors. If you’ve ever tried to convert from one practice to the other, you know how difficult it can be to change your ways. I’m now proud to confess, however, that I’m a one-space writer at heart, and I’m also a big fan of the art of typography that today’s sophisticated software programs have made it so easy for us to neglect. Where do you stand on the one-space v. two-space debate? Do you plan to change your ways?

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