How many spaces should you put after a period? We have the answer, explanation, and quick fix.

By Rob W. Hart/ Are you a double-spacer?

It’s OK. Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. And yes, you may not even know you have a problem, but if you’re tapping your space bar twice after you end a sentence, then it’s time you considered rehab.

There’s a very funny – and very snarky – article on the subject at Slate. after reading it, I have since looked at typed pages with a new set of eyes.

Essentially, the after-period double-spacing goes back to ye olde days of typesetting, even though there’s no consensus as to why (unlike the QWERTY keyboard layout, which was specifically designed to be inefficient). Somehow, double-spacing ingrained itself into the fingers of millions of typers.

And here’s why this is important: There are agents/writers/publishers/readers who are going to roll their eyes at your prose if you double-space. But there aren’t any who are going to hold it against you for being a single-spacer. So, single-spacing is what you should be doing.

It’s not hard. Trust me. After reading that Slate article, I figured, “Let’s try this on.” And I think it took two or three sentences before I had trained myself out of that habit. And comparing my typed words to now, everything looks so much more concise.

So, now, I know, I just dropped a bomb in your lap. You’ve got a massive manuscript full of double-spacing. You’re facing the prospect of picking through it, line by line, to eliminate that fat. You probably hate me right now.

Except you shouldn’t, because there’s a trick to this. I used it on the 93,000-word manuscript I wrote. I’ve been using it on manuscripts I edit here for Novel Publicity. You can eliminate those double-spaces in just six keystrokes.

With your document open, hit Ctrl + F for the Find/Replace function.

In the ‘find’ box, hit the space bar twice.

In the ‘replace’ box, hit the space bar once.

Hit Enter.

You are done.

Seriously, this works. It didn’t throw off my justification or page breaks or chapters or anything. It even shaved a couple of pages off my manuscript, which was fun to watch.

I know it seems silly, but this goes to the root of the publishing/querying process. You are competing with hundreds – nay, thousands – of other voices. Some of them aren’t as good as you. Some of them are better. Some are just the same. You need to set yourself apart, and the less mistakes you make, the better your chances.

Does double-spacing make you un-publishable? Absolutely not. But if it’s going to hold you back in any step of the process, it’s a habit worth breaking.

Note from Emlyn: When using find and replace to fix your double-space formatting mistakes, remember to look out for colons. Colons actually do require two spaces after them, so you may want to use that same technique to find “:  “ and replace with “:    “


About this post’s author:

Rob W. Hart is a writer with a background in PR and journalism. He just completed his first novel, Apophenia, and maintains a blog about books and writing at blogduggery. You can also find him on Twitter.

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