My Pet Peeve: Double-Spacing

About five years ago I became one of the “enlightened” when I learned that the double-spacing rule at the end of a sentence was outdated (my standards are low when it comes to what counts as enlightenment). I quickly challenged myself to relearn my typing skills and within a week had broken the two-space habit that had been pounded into me by every teacher I’d ever encountered.

The problem with my adjustment to single-spacing is that now I too easily recognize double-spacing and it drives me CUCKOO (using the universal crazy gesture… to do it yourself, hold hand up next to the side of your head, make a very lose fist, stick your pointer finger out towards your head, and swirl finger in clockwise/forward circular motion).

What really convinced me to stop the double-spacing was one description I heard… if you turned your paper upside down, it looked like you had rivers running through your document. Want another visual? It looks like your paper was sprayed with buckshot… holes everywhere!

I’d wager all of us over the age of 20 grew up learning to end a sentence with two-spaces. This is an innocent enough mistake when our teachers were taught double-spacing on a typewriter. Somehow the message to single-space never permeated any of my teacher’s consciousness or spilled over into their instruction.

The things is, double-spacing has never been the correct way to space after a paragraph and was only ever implemented because of the typewriter. The correct way to space between sentences (as established in typography) has always been, and still is, one space.

Some of you are probably outraged about now and insisting you won’t change your double-spacing ways. But hear me out. Please? I’ll beg if necessary. I’m on a mission to convert everyone… BE HEALED!

Back in the day, typewriters used this thing called a monospace font which gives equal horizontal space to and between each character. So a “w” would occupy the same amount of space as an “i”. Essentially, the space allotted, was not proportional to the actual characters size so you’d end up with a fairly large spread of characters across the page (Courier is a good example of a monspace font). This spread made it difficult to identify where one sentence ended and the next began and thus entered the two-space “rule.”

Let’s consider why double-spacing is no longer necessary (and dare I say no longer acceptable?).

Short answer: the technological revolution and the more recent (past 35 years or so) graphic capabilities of the computer.

Long Answer: When a wider variety of fonts came into play (some sources say as early as the 1970’s) font design started to account for the spacing around a character – spacing became proportional to the size of the character – and eliminated the typewriter spread. This made it easier to distinguish one sentence from the next and that two-space gap became much more noticeable.

The noticeable gap drove typographers and graphic designers back to the one-space rule because it flat out looks better. The rest of the population has been slow to realize and adjust to the one-space rule, probably because people don’t know better (five years ago, even I was in the dark). And for those of you experiencing outrage, you just don’t care.

So before the hate mail starts rolling in, there are probably a couple areas where it is acceptable to use the double-space rule… mostly when you have to use a monospace font. Or if your college professors demand it and will dock you for not using it, I’d play along with them but also probably write a paper up on why it’s wrong and include links and resources for documentation. God knows I like to be right.

Want to read more? Slate did a great write up on this that is way more detailed and awesome than mine. Or read up on what exactly is a monospace font.

And PLEASE, for the love of God and my sanity, try breaking the two-space habit.

<period><single space><new sentence>



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