Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Space or Two?

When typing your manuscript, do you put one space between sentences or two?

My own habit is to put two spaces between sentences because it's what I was taught. I'm even doing it as I type this blog, even though I know the second space will be ignored by the HTML code.

Looking for an answer in the various books I have doesn't help as none of them cover the subject, not even the ones on punctuation (curse you Lynne Truss).

A search of the internet throws up various opinions, the most comprehensive of which can be found on Wikipedia in an article on sentence spacing. The upshot of this article is that single spacing is the current convention, but that double spacing is still used widely, even being taught in schools.

An interesting point to note is that in typesetting and printing a single space has ALWAYS been in use and that double spacing was introduced for typewriters.

Other sites suggest, nay insist, that one space is correct such as 'Grammar Girl'. The Chicago Manual of Style also states that one space should be used.

If you've already tapped the spacebar twice in your 250,000 word novel, do not worry for help is at hand with a simple tip using the find/replace function in your word processing software.

Which is correct? I'm leaning towards single, but habit forces me to use double. What is your opinion?


Boudica said...

Neither is 'correct'. Grammar and punctuation have more to do with fashion than with rules. Double spaces between sentences seems to be less fashionable than it used to be.

My understanding is that double spaces were primarily used in business letters and then spread from there outwards. However, my experience is that is not uniformly used - and those that do use it, tend to be older (perhaps reflecting when it was taught in schools, and those that went into business before word processors became ubiquitous).

I don't use it because I think it looks ugly on the page. And I take it out if I'm editing something. But that's just my preference.

DRC said...

I do use the double space. I can't remember where I got it from, but it's been something I've always done.

Martin Willoughby said...

Boudica: Funnily enough double spacing has never been used in France and I don't think it's been used in the USA either.

DRC: It'll be a hangover from school and taught to you by the same people that tell us that we should always use different words for said, such as exclaimed, shouted etc.

Milo James Fowler said...

I used to "double" everything, but when I started subbing my short fiction in '09, I soon learned that editors want a single space following periods. It was a strange transition at first; but now it feels strange to leave a double space.

Martin Willoughby said...

Milo: It's looking like I'll have to make the change.

PV Lundqvist said...


Modern software adjusts the text automatically.

Martin Willoughby said...

PVL: Does it? Mine doesn't.

Meg said...

I was taught single. I only learned about the concept of double spaces when reading some blog about formatting your work.

(I was forced into computer classes that taught how to use all of word and excels extra features when I was 13. Still hard for me to believe I'm considered young.)

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I was always taught double and as a touch typist I find it almost impossible to do single as it's just not automatic enough. Everyone will disagree, always, but for me, double is standard. Really, I'm not offended by either. I'm mostly offended that the majority of people can't tell the difference between "its" and "it's". That really drives me nuts.

Martin Willoughby said...

Meg: Long time no hear! It's rarely a matter of age, more of teaching.

Veg: Ah yes, the 'its' conundrum. I bet you know how to use posessive apostrophes too.

[Naebsy] said...

I use single spacing and this is the first time I'm hearing about double spacing. Weird.
Maybe double spacing originates from your generation Martin.

Martin Willoughby said...

Naebsy: It's not necessarily a generational thing, it seems to be more of a cultural thing. But it also seems peculiar to the UK.