One Space Between Sentences Is Better Than Two

Posted April 17, 2014 by Amanda Shofner in Writing / 10 Comments

one-space-between-sentences

It’s official.

I’m taking the stance that one space between sentences is the better choice

Note I didn’t say the correct choice. I said the better choice. One or two spaces is ultimately a choice with no right or wrong option. But is one option better than the other? Oh yeah. And it’s one space.

If you’re using two spaces between sentences, ask yourself WHY you’re using two spaces. The two most common reasons I hear are “That’s how I learned/how I’ve always done it” and “It’s too difficult to break the habit.”

Seriously?

I admit it. I clung to the “But this is what I’ve always done!” excuse in grad school when writing papers. My professors chose not to force one space between sentences on us, but I almost wish they had. Instead, I taught myself. It’s not too difficult to break the habit.

You don’t evolve or grow if you stick to what you’ve always done

And things change.

Both AP and Chicago Manual of Style prefer one space. Facebook, when viewed on a computer, strips out extra spaces. Mainstream media use one space. And for good reason.

We’re not writing on typewriters anymore. Two spaces were necessary to distinguish between sentences on typewriters. But modern computers don’t have the same issue. The period signals the end of a sentence, and you can easily see periods and the beginning of a new sentence even when there’s one space.

“But in a paragraph, you can easily spot where sentences end with two spaces,” you argue. I ask, “Is it absolutely necessary to know where sentences end before you read?” No. We have periods and capital letters to signal sentences boundaries—not spaces. Big gaping spaces between sentences disrupt the flow of words.

Don’t isolate your sentences.   It’s unbecoming.

You can still use rotary phones today, but when everyone’s using smartphones, you’re going to stand out—and not necessarily in a good way. Two spaces might not have the same stigma yet, but it may soon become an easy way to tell who’s up-to-date and who’s a throwback to a previous era.

It’s time to join the modern world

If I want to say, “Yes, I’m current with writing style trends,” my writing has to show I’m not a liar. And that’s precisely why I broke my two-space habit. If I want to be able to be an authority on writing, my writing must reflect what’s accepted and standard. If you want to look like you belong in the 21st century, drop the extra space between sentences.

I first broke my two-space habit on Twitter. If there’s any place where one space makes total and complete sense, it’s the social network that limits you to 140 characters; spaces are characters. It’s an easy place to start and it saves you the time of going back over an entire email or blog post.

Breaking your habit, though, requires conscious effort to remember, after each sentence, you only have to hit the space bar once. It’s not easy. You will forget and find yourself hitting it twice. But you’ll also learn to recognize it. If you write in Microsoft Word, you can set up the problem to flag any instance of two spaces between sentences. No matter how hard it is, however, it is possible. You can do it.

And once you learn to use one space instead of two—just imagine what else you can accomplish.

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10 responses to “One Space Between Sentences Is Better Than Two

  1. I was never taught to use two spaces, so I automatically use one and I actually prefer it. I just think it looks better. My fiance who is a few years older uses two, but he’s trying to get out of the habit of doing it.

    • Yes! In a weird way, I think using two spaces can actually date you. Which is fine if you don’t care, but it’s rather telling if they stopped teaching the two-space “rule” to people. Ahem. One space is better. 😉

  2. I wasn’t taught to use two spaces, either. Actually, your post is the first time I’ve heard about such a thing and I am not that young, lol.

  3. It takes 3 times longer for me to type using 1 space after a sentence. It is 20 + years ingrained (as I actually took typewriting in HS). So while I try to do it on smaller things, when I am writing long documentation I just don’t. I am not opposed to the change but it isn’t as simple as taking 20+ years of typing and turning it off. It will probably be a curve thing for me but if I am typing fast there will be 2 LOL

    • I know it’s difficult to turn off using two spaces because I did it myself. But it’s because I did it myself that I know it’s possible. You can change the habit if you want it enough… but I also know not everyone does.

      It’s kind of like using a new keyboard with buttons (home, delete, end, page up + down) in different places. Your fingers learn the new locations of the buttons, even if you’ve been using the same keyboard for years. You make a lot of mistakes along the way, but you get it down eventually. (Also because you have to, which is obviously a little different in the one vs two space debate.)

  4. I remember when someone first suggested that I change to one space. I was honestly annoyed. How dare they tell me what I’d been doing for decades was not the right way?! Retraining my brain to type one space instead of two was tough, but doable. Now when I read content with two spaces it drives me a little crazy. 😉

    • Ha. I totally understand! My thought process usually involved thinking my way was the right way and there wasn’t anything that could force me to change (outside of a professor telling me it was a requirement).

      Then I entered the online world and realized how outdated the practice is. Especially with online business, you want to blend in with your clients. And spaces count—even your readers can’t put their finger on what’s different about your writing.

  5. Learned to do it with two spaces. But, as you know (I think?), I got in the habit of only using one after talking about it on Twitter and after it was required of me at work. It ended up sticking pretty easily.

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