Spacing Out: Use One Space or Two Spaces After a Period (Grammar Rules)

Is it better to use one space or two spaces after a period? Find the definitive answer for one of the most divisive topics this side of the Oxford comma with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors.
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Is it better to use one space or two spaces after a period? Find the definitive answer for one of the most divisive topics this side of the Oxford comma with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors.

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We're back into the flow of school at the Brewer mansion, which means we're cutting out Box Tops, going to "spirit" nights at various local food spots, and rushing to get ready for school each morning. It also means I'm helping out with homework and getting frustrated with how some things have changed (like this "new math") and how others have not—and yes, I'm obviously speaking about the spacing after periods in papers.

Should You Use One Space or Two Spaces After a Period?

There's only one correct answer for whether to use one space or two spaces after a period, and it's to use one space. Go ahead and debate me, but there's only one reason why the "two space" rule came into existence: It's because of this outdated technology called a typewriter.

While I learned how to type on typewriter, they've since disappeared from most everyday public settings and treated like a novelty along with nostalgic relics like the card catalog. Don't get me wrong, I love typewriters and card catalogs. I love the good old days, but...they are the "good old days."

Two spaces happened as a result of how typewriters did not differentiate the spaces between letters like an "l" and "w," so two spaces helped differentiate the ends of sentences. However, word processing software now takes care of that problem easily by keeping the space between letters at a minimum.

And it's not just an editorial preference (though it's totally an editorial preference too), but the major style guides all agree that it's one space after the period, not two. I can't speak for every single person in the publishing industry, but two spaces after a period is like nails on a chalkboard (speaking of nostalgic relics).

If you're currently doing two spaces, I understand. We were all taught (like my kids are being instructed) that it's the right thing to do. But now that we know it's not, let's all agree: It's always better to have one space after a period. Cut it out with the two spaces already.

Learn more in the online course, Grammar and Mechanics, from Writer's Digest University:

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