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.

Cynthia Leighton

Never thought of that. I guess I transitioned to the single space somewhere along the line. I did do double space, I remember that for sure. Now I’ll pay attention and see if I am consistent in different types of writing.

Jacqueline Hopkins

I was taught the old school way of two spaces behind the period. Taught that way in school many moons ago. You’ve heard the old addage: hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I guess if it is becoming the norm, I guess I can adapt, too. I did it in this response. Great info on how to change it all in one go, and glad to see it didn’t change for the good old colon. Thank you.

    Emlyn Chand

    I was taught to use two spaces as well, and I graduated in 2002! The teaching curriculum must have recently changed (or perhaps it hasn’t caught up to the publishing industry yet). It is tough reteaching yourself – I still have to ctrl+F every manuscript to make sure I’m on-point.

Allan Douglas

Guilty as charged. I have been a double spacer since I was in diapers. Almost. It goes back to my days as a newspaperman when the Powers That Be decided that two spaces after a period (question mark, exclamation point, etc.) made the text oh-so much easier to read. I agreed, still do. But if this is now being discarded along with the word “fewer” (everyone seems to be using “less” universally now, even “professional” journalists) then I guess that’s the way it is. But when they decide to “clean things up” by simply eliminating punctuation, I’m going to hang up my hat and take up professional billiards.

Robin Hillyer Miles

All style guides now state to use one space, except APA which leaves it up to the teacher’s discretion. Many high school teachers still teach the double space because they don’t know better.

I graduated college in 1985. I learned in COLLEGE to single space. As a graphic designer, let me tell you, it really does make a difference, as do the extra spaces before a hard return. Get rid of them too.

    Emlyn Chand

    Thanks, Robin. I graduated high school in 2002, college in 2006, and got my MA in 2009. I was always told to use two spaces, or the issue was never mentioned. How funny!

Joshua

Actually, it’s Ctrl+H that opens the Find & Replace feature. Ctrl+F just opens Find.

James Duckett

Thanks for this article. I am attempting to mend my ways. But, FYI, I referenced this article on my blog: https://www.jamesduckett.com/2011/07/weekly-lesson-hit-space-bar-once.html

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