Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

Do You Use Double Spaces After Punctuation Marks?

By Lin Parkin

September 4, 2012

Comments (29)

Young woman typing on a laptop computer, sitting on a couch.The great debate lives on...should you hit the space bar twice after a sentence ending period?

There are strong views on the topic, that's for sure!

Given that you read copy all day long, we're curious to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Tell us what you think in today's Vox Daily.

Are Two Spaces Better Than One?

One of my favourite pastimes is writing and editing for friends, family and various publications. While editing an article one day, in a fleeting moment, I updated my Facebook status with what would bring on a rather heated debate.

"Be gone double space, be gone!"

What ensued was a thread of strong opinions on whether or not one should use a double space after punctuation marks.

Here's my take.

Monospace Font vs. Proportional Font

Before there was a computer in every classroom, we were taught to type on typewriters and instructed to double space after sentence ending periods. Most teachers taught students to apply this rule to all punctuation marks. The practice was in place because typewriters use monospace letters, meaning each character was the same width. Since monospace letters are more difficult to read, the natural practice was to add an extra space after punctuation marks.

By the end of the 1980s computers replaced typewriters in most schools and businesses. Computers come with word processors which commonly use proportional letters. Proportional letters make it easier to read sentence structures, rendering the practice of double spacing unnecessary.

If you stop and examine newspapers, magazines, journals, and books you'll notice that they all use a single space after punctuation marks.

Publishing programs for the web automatically assume double spacing after a punctuation mark is an error and the system eradicates the extra space before it goes live on the web. This may be part of what drives the notion that using double spaces are not just old fashioned but wrong.

My search for an authority on the subject lead me to The Modern Language Association (MLA) which recommends double spacing throughout the text but leaving just one space after punctuation marks. The Chicago Style and both the Canadian and American Press Stylebooks recommend the same.

So my conclusion is that while double spacing at the end of a sentence may feel comfortable to a traditionalist's eye, leaving it in will do little more than appear as though you've made a typo.

What's Your Opinion?

As voice actors you spend all day reading scripts. Many of you are also skilled copywriters and bloggers.

Does the editor in you yearn to delete those double spaces? Or does it make it easier for you to read the script?

Add your two cents below.

Lin

©iStockphoto.com/Neustockimages

Related Topics: Chicago, reading


Comments


    As an editor, writer and voice over talent who teaches writing, I always go with one space and not two. It's just the standard now.

    Posted by:

      Learning to keyboard on a manual typewriter in the 1970s taught me to leave two spaces after a period. Working as a professional proofreader and copy editor in the publishing industry broke me of that habit. The double space made sense with the manual typewriter's monospace font, where sentence breaks would get lost without a little help from the space bar. In today's computer-based, proportional-font world, the double space merely adds gappiness. Want to make typographers wail and gnash their teeth? Hand 'em a page of proportional-font text with two spaces after each period.

      If people want to double-space because it's what they learned in school and they don't care to unlearn the habit, that's fine by me. If they wish to argue that my use of the single space is ignorant and (stylistically and morally) wrong, however, I will argue back. Also, any writer who submits material with two spaces after periods to a publisher should be aware that every extraneous space is being removed by a member of the editorial staff who is swearing at the author under his/her breath.

      Posted by:

        Long live white space. If it's not there, I'll add it. My eyeballs like it.

        Posted by:

          It's been 30 years since high school, but I remember the rule was double spacing after everything that ended a sentence. Typing class from '78 also said 5 spaces for an indent to a new paragraph. Not sure if that applies anymore though.

          Posted by:
          • Mike Tarnow
          • September 4, 2012 7:10 PM

            Like Mike Tarnow, I remember typing class in high school and double space at the end of sentence and colon. Single space after a comma and semi colon.

            Posted by:
            • Dan Wallace
            • September 4, 2012 7:10 PM

              Single. Just a life habit, really.

              Posted by:
              • River Kanoff
              • September 4, 2012 7:11 PM

                My fingers automatically double space after punctuation marks due to typing class in the 80s. I can't help it!

                Posted by:
                • Shania Jackson
                • September 4, 2012 7:11 PM

                  Single. Industry/editing standard in the move from monotype to proportional fonts (or typewriter to computer if one prefers).

                  Posted by:
                  • Friday Valentine
                  • September 4, 2012 7:13 PM

                    It's been double space forever. Somewhere along the way, someone probably figured it was wasted effort and now they don't use it or teach it anymore, but more likely to get an extra few words on a page. Laziness may have something to do with it as well. Depends on which generation you ask, I suppose. Heck, I typed this with double space after each sentence. It's habit as well.

                    Posted by:
                    • David Bucci
                    • September 4, 2012 7:14 PM

                      Well, I had know idea it was a big deal. Double makes me "pre see" what is coming with a cold read. Justmakesthingseasiertoadjustforasyougoontothenextideainthecopy.
                      Ya know?

                      Old school. Mostly.

                      Lynn

                      Posted by:

                        Thanks for commenting everyone! I think it's interesting that it's nearly split right down the middle for single space vs. double space.

                        @David, did you notice that all the double spacing was stripped from your comment? That's the blog software automatically editing them out.

                        Posted by:

                          Times do change and I will go with the flow; but my education is engrained and my eyes still like the double space when reading.

                          Posted by:
                          • Mellonee
                          • September 5, 2012 9:06 AM

                            For years I used a double space after any punctuation. But it had little to do with old typing rules and more to do with the visual concept. The look of separation. Then that visual in turn created a sort of, "closure" from one "point of view" to another and seemed to help make a point more clear. This is all made up in my mind of course and it was a few years ago that I decided to use a single space following all punctuation. After all, I'm in a hurry to get this written and I just saved .0005 seconds with space deletion that I can now add to my already hectic day.

                            Posted by:

                              The rules of punctuation haven't changed.(double space) Neither have the rules of grammar. However, both seem to have been forgotten. A simple punctuation mark can change the meaning of a sentence. Put that together with a few well place grammatical errors and you've got a potential disaster.

                              Posted by:
                              • Bill Hickman
                              • September 5, 2012 9:30 AM

                                High School typing class in the '70's really planted the habit of "double space after most punctuation marks" and it's stuck with me since. I often find myself wanting to "correct" the single space copy I see. Maybe it's time to learn a new habit?

                                Posted by:

                                  General Motors' old Lexicon required that the word 'employee' be spelled as 'employe', with only one trailing e. That was seen to conserve paper, ink and time. A 'triple whammy' in cost savings! Today, conservation also saves bits, Bites and storage media.

                                  Posted by:
                                  • Robert Brown
                                  • September 5, 2012 9:44 AM

                                    In the early sixties, (note the number is spelled out for ease of reading), I was called upon by Her Majesty's Forces in the UK to serve my country as a National Serviceman. The army, in its wisdom, decided that as an actor I would be better suited as an admin clerk. Sixteen weeks of training; learning to fire a rifle, to march in a straight line, to bring my boots to a mirror-like shine AND leave three spaces after a period mark, were lessons that were embedded in my psyche! It took quite some time to adapt to the new fashion of leaving two spaces, which I really DO prefer. One space smacks of indolence and should be banished to the great typist in the sky! Yours sincerely, "Two Space" Don.

                                    Posted by:

                                      I prefer a double space after the end of sentences. Its traditional and helps in the read. My biggest complaints are scripts with:
                                      * ALL CAPS (People think it helps, but the human eye cannot follow all caps very well)
                                      * Center Justification (Jeez!)
                                      * Weird fonts. There is a reason books are published in fonts with "serifs." Those little serifs on the tips of letters are there to guide the eye from one letter to the next. Times New Roman is probably the best readily available font to read.

                                      A script written in all caps, center justified with the Comic Sans font (in italics) is just a mean joke.

                                      Posted by:

                                        I always use 2 spaces after a sentence as I believe it is easier on the reader.

                                        Posted by:
                                        • Herb Isaacs
                                        • September 5, 2012 11:14 AM

                                          I'm with you. Be gone, double spaces, be gone!

                                          Posted by:
                                          • J. Michael Bryan
                                          • September 5, 2012 11:42 AM

                                            I think of it this way, when reading aloud, do you pause the same amount of time for a comma as you do a period? Personally, I don't, so I'm gonna go ahead and still use the double space.

                                            Posted by:

                                              I love the double space. It’s just something I automatically do! The separation between sentences is visually more appealing and it just works for someone who needs to read a script or passage aloud. It never seems to be a waste of space, at least not to me. And of course, old habits die hard. I agree with Bill Hickman above who believes in perpetuating the rules of punctuation and the use of correct grammar. Guess that makes me a traditionalist! However, that being said, I would hope that we might be able to accept both options according to writer preference. What do you think? Bottom line: I have to cast my vote for the double!

                                              Posted by:
                                              • S. Cassidy
                                              • September 5, 2012 4:58 PM

                                                What does this mean: "double spacing throughout the text"? Where exactly should these double spaces be if not at the end of punctuation at the end of a sentence?

                                                Posted by:
                                                • Ann
                                                • September 7, 2012 8:08 AM

                                                  Hi Ann,

                                                  Thank you for commenting and for your question. I believe the meaning of the word text in this instance refers to a document as a whole, as in you are reading from a text.

                                                  Best wishes,
                                                  Stephanie

                                                  Posted by:

                                                    Single Space! Move on & up w/the times. Change is Good. Embrace Change.

                                                    Posted by:
                                                    • Gail
                                                    • September 12, 2012 2:17 PM

                                                      My reading of this article led me to a sentence where the past tense of the verb "to lead" was misspelled "lead" – a particular pet peeve of mine.

                                                      As for the spaces, double for mono. With proportional it doesn't really matter.

                                                      Posted by:
                                                      • Drew
                                                      • September 12, 2012 2:38 PM

                                                        Web based software doesn't remove spaces in an attempt to clean up your text. It is purely a side effect of HTML parsing rules that say any number of spaces (whether it is 2 or 50) are to be treated as one space unless the HTML is marked up to respect spacing. This is mostly to allow HTML code to be written with nice indentation for developers to show the structure without having the indentation affect the layout.

                                                        There are several ways in HTML to ensure the rendering of multiple spaces.

                                                        As to whether we SHOULD double space, I will leave that up to the language lawyers. But don't blame the web. :-)

                                                        Posted by:
                                                        • Megan
                                                        • September 13, 2012 9:15 AM

                                                          I finished college in 2009 as an English major - Creative Writing. I always used and continue to use two spaces after a punctuation mark. Even on my iPhone if you space twice a period is automatic but that probably has nothing to do with it. My professors never commented, objected or gave any information as to the standard. I will always continue to use two spaces - I just like it. Habit?

                                                          Posted by:
                                                          • Rich
                                                          • September 26, 2012 2:18 PM

                                                            No debate. Single. Space.

                                                            Posted by:
                                                            • Sam
                                                            • September 15, 2013 1:08 PM

Leave a Comment



Recent Articles

What is an NDA and When Should One Be Issued?

Can Non-Union Work be Converted to Union Work? YES! It can!

Can Non-Union Talent be hired for a Union Production?

How Are You Promoting Your Voice?

5 Stages for Creating a Killer Explainer Video

Need Royalty-free Music? Check out YouTube's Latest Offering

3 Tips for Casting Voice Talent in Animation

3 Ways To Spot A Signature Voice

Your Business Has a Story to Tell!

6 Tips for Writing a Stellar Voice Over Script

   

Do You Have a Project?

Request a Quote

Looking for voice talent? You've come to the right place. Post a job and you'll get sample recordings of your script and price quotes.

Tell us about your project

Subscribe by Email

About Vox Daily

Vox Daily offers a daily dose of voice acting news, articles, tutorials, interviews, intelligent conversation and business ideas for voice talent and voice actors.


Follow Us

   

Our feed & social options update you with special offers and news as it happens.

New YouTube Video

Watch videos on YouTube