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Punctuation: Taking Up Two Spaces

Posted by Paula Doubleday

27 Feb 2012 — No Comments

punctuation spaces

About once a week I take myself out to lunch for a break, fresh air, and a little calm time. My favorite sushi place shares a parking lot with Trader Joe’s. I love TJ but there is a strange energy in that  parking lot. People are frantic, angry, and aggressive. There aren’t enough spaces and the available ones are the compact type filled with non-compact cars. So even if you do find a spot, it is most likely you can barely get in or out of the car.

Punctuation has an energy similar to this parking lot. There are people who are invested in taking up two spaces after a period or a colon. It looks like this.

Big giant spaces in between  sentences. Where did this come from? A machine called a typewriter.

A typewriter is constructed of little arms with a letter at the end (remember this?). Each key stroke advanced the typewriter platen, or roller, the same distance. So the letter “m” took up the same space as the letter “a” even though they are different widths. It was the proper practice to put two spaces after a period or colon to ensure there was enough room to visually distinguish the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next. All fine in 1960s. But when was the last time you used a typewriter?

Today software distinguishes the fractional widths of a letters. There is no need to add extra spaces. And it is visually more difficult to read because your brain stops at a space, and even longer at two spaces. With proper spaces, the text looks like this:

Here is the rule for easy readability: ONE space after a period. ONE space after a colon, a dash, and an m-dash. Consistency is key. When you finish a document, whether in Word or Powerpoint or other software, do a search for “space-space” and replace with “space”.

You’ll be happy and your clients will be happy…maybe even the drivers at the Trader Joe’s parking lot will be happy.

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