spaces after periods

The penguin Opus, with Bill the Cat as his running mate, has entered the presidential race in the revived Bloom County comic strip. At the end of last week Opus came out strongly on the divisive issue of how many spaces to use after a period. His position, I am sorry to report, supports two spaces after a period. That this is a highly emotional issue can be seen from the comments when my friend Jane Redmont posted the first strip on her Facebook timeline.

My position is that two spaces after a period is a factor of the monospaced fonts used on typewriters, and that when using a computer with proportional fonts spacing is handled automatically, and only one space is needed.

Mignon Fogarty, known as Grammar Girl, not so much an authority in her own right, as someone who has undertaken the work to do the difficult research on our behalf, takes this position. Likewise, the Web site, based on The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, published by the respected technical publishing house Wiley, agrees. Also in agreement is the The Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A.

Oddly, states: “In word-processed documents, two spaces traditionally follow a sentence-ending period.” But it then admits that the rule is changing and goes on to cite the Modern Language Association:

quotePublications in the United States today usually have the same spacing after a punctuation mark as between words on the same line. Since word processors make available the same fonts used by typesetters for printed works, many writers, influenced by the look of typeset publications, now leave only one space after a concluding punctuation mark.

I can only think that that first sentence refers to early word processors, when word processing and computing were done on different hardware.

Mignon, in her Grammar Girl post on the subject, refers to what she calls “a long and fascinating piece” that takes the dissenting view. Personally, I found the piece much more of an angry rant, but for the sake of completeness, I include the link here.

Bottom line: Sorry, Opus. It’s one space after a period.



2 Comments on “spaces after periods”

  1. Tahoe Mom says:

    Learned to type on a typewriter. Moved to a word processor and on to a computer. Don’t Ever remember putting two spaces at the end of the sentence. On the other hand, I’m old so maybe that is so far back in history that I just don’t remember it even though it happened. Don’t think so though.

    • Tahoe Mom, Interesting. I am old enough that I had a typewriter in college. I remember using two spaces after a period. I think I still have some term papers in the garage that survived the move down here. But I also have some essays that I wrote during the two years I hung around Claremont after graduating here in my office. I pulled a couple of those out, and sure enough, two spaces. I have never used a dedicated word processor, but I have long used a single space after a period on the computer. I think we has a conversation about that at the small software company where I worked in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. We agreed, I believe, that a single space was the proper form.

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