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GOOD Design Daily: Do You Double Space After Periods?

There's a raging debate over whether or not you should double space after a period. In this case, designers know best.

Designers tend to be overly opinionated about lots of things that the rest of the world doesn't care much about. Bad logos. Poor color choices. And don't get them started on the pros and cons (mostly cons) of Comic Sans. But there's one argument where designers, namely type designers, do know best. And that's the argument against placing a double space after a period.

Over at Slate, Farhad Manjoo finally addresses the issue with some authority.

The deal is this: Long, long ago some of us learned to type on typewriters, which, for the most part, used monospace fonts, or letters that each took up the exact same width. We were instructed to insert an extra space to give that period some room before the next capital letter.

With the evolution of type programs on computers, we now use proportional fonts, where the computer knows that an "i" takes up less space than an "m" and adjusts the space accordingly. The same thing goes for the period at the end of this sentence. Trust me. Your computer knows best.

What's disturbing is how many commenters on Manjoo's post—over 600 and counting—are angry about this. These folks are adamant about double-spacing after a period, even though Manjoo points to several authoritative voices, including style manuals and typographers, who are adamant that you should not. Some are writing things like, "I like the way it looks." or "I don't have to change." or "That's what my typing teacher taught me." or "I'm not publishing my writing so why does it matter?" Some are accusing typographers of not having real jobs. Some are calling Manjoo a liar (and worse). Even a teacher—and this sent a shudder up my spine—who admits she knows double-spacing is wrong, still tells her students to double space. "Primarily, I base the spacing on the way I learned," she says. What does that say about the rest of our educational system?

Using a single space means that you understand that technology has changed since the decades ago when you first used to type. A single space means you realize not everything your teachers taught you in high school still holds true. A single space means you have respect for the journalists and designers who are working hard to take those extra spaces out of the drafts you're sending us.

And honestly, wouldn't you take this advice from us professionals? Look at any print publication. Single-spaced. Now look at this post. Even if I had typed it with double spaces, many HTML browsers will simply collapse a double space into one, because they know.

If I want to demonstrate the weirdness of double-spaced type, I have to force it like this. I have to use a special HTML code just to add them. Now you see them. Those double spaces. That should not be there. (Ironically, the hundreds of angry commenters on Slate had their double spaces stripped out.)

Manjoo's strongest argument is one that I agree with wholeheartedly. Even if you disagree with the single-spacers, how about this idea: It's easier. It takes less time. You're saving yourself hundreds of characters per day. Millions of characters over a lifetime! Just think of how much more you could say in your Twitter messages!

Yet alas, we will perhaps never close the distance between hardworking designers and editors, and those who refuse to acknowledge that technology is here to help. I will continue to get emails riddled with those gaping voids as a reminder. Forget political rhetoric. This could be the next big cultural divide.

Comparison paragraphs provided by Interpretation By Design

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

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