Two spaces after a period? One?

As far back as I can remember, I have been putting 2 spaces after a period.  It’s how I was taught in  typing class in high school. Now, that dates me – I was in high school, learning to type on electric typewriters. 

I’ve now read a couple of articles that state in no uncertain terms that TWO SPACES AFTER A PERIOD IS WRONG!

But I see it everywhere. Well not everywhere, but I see it a lot, ok?

So who says it’s wrong to use 2 spaces after a period? Typographers. Yep. Those folks that study and design typefaces for our wonderful language.

So I have to pause and consider that. I crack open Elements of Style (a cornerstone of correct grammar if ever there was one) and fail to find this point even mentioned, but then I look at the text of the book itself. Oh look, Strunk and White use ONE SPACE AFTER THE PERIOD. Well, I guess I have my answer, even if it wasn’t said outright.

Where did the two spaces thing start? Apparently, around the time the old mono spaced typewriters were in use. A single space wasn’t always evident in text typed on these machines, so people started adding a second space to increase the white space. It wasn’t correct, but it did become standard practice to make up for the device’s limitations. Sometime in the 70’s, typewriters got smarter and did proportional spacing, so the extra space was no longer needed (if it ever was), but incorrect habits had formed and they continued to be taught into the 80’s. Then those people taught others and so on and so on.

This article on Slate was enlightening for me:

Now, I’m not completely convinced that one space after the period is the right way to go, even if it is technically correct. One space reads a little cramped, particularly in electronic format. But I do think this is worthy of consideration for anyone who attempts to write professionally.


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