Give Some Space

Sorry for a clickbait title… I wanted one with a play of words.

The article isn’t really aimed at people who are old enough to have learned (learnt for those who speak the English English) typing on typewriters, but also for those who are still taught to use two spaces after every sentence.

The trend has (almost) changed. In the past, people used two spaces for a reason: typewriters had monospace fonts that inserted equal, not proportional, spaces for all letters. So, the “i” consumed as much space as “w” or “m”. The obvious confusion was when sentences ended. So, it was required that the writers insert two spaces after sentences to visibly mark the end of sentences.

Why this post? Now, in 2018? Well, I still come across write-ups from people who use two spaces. I have seen people encourage two spaces, especially in legal documents. I see some people use double spaces in résumés and personal profiles that are not just printed, but shared digitally, as well. In technical publications, we encourage the use of a single space after sentences because we use proportional fonts.

We are increasingly sharing information digitally. Given that context, I’d encourage you to give only space after a period (full stop in the UK English) or any punctuation mark toward the end of a sentence. Not two.

Published by

Suyog Ketkar

He is a certified technical communicator. He believes that writing continues to be an easy-to-do-but-difficult-to-master job. In his work time, he proudly dons the “enabler” cape. In his non-work time, he dons many hats including one of a super-busy father.

7 thoughts on “Give Some Space”

  1. Interesting. I’m guilty as charged of using two spaces. But doesn’t(in digital documents), two spaces give the write-up a much cleaner look? Otherwise, it might look a bit chunky or even jarring, I reckon.

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    1. Over the years, all of us have begun using proportional fonts. This means “i” does not consume as much space as “w” or “m”. Space is, therefore, proportionately divided for all letters and punctuation marks. So, a single space is also equally visible for both capped (serif) and non-capped (sans-serif) fonts.

      I can understand your point about content looking cleaner with two spaces. But, a lot of appearance of the content also depends on the font type, paragraph length, and use of character formats like boldface and italics. You can have heavy content spread across paragraphs with each one having not more than 2-3 sentences each. The content will still look clean.

      Because digital spaces do not have page length (or width) constraint you can distribute the content more evenly across a page’s length (or width). As far as I can understand, the problem occurs only when you are sharing the content. Two white spaces will mean a number of pages are consumed for the same amount of content, for example, in PDFs. In such cases, you end up consuming a lot of disk space, too. But, that’s entirely my observation and understanding. 🙂

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      1. Now I can understand. Having no expertise in technicality, I was confused to get your point. Thanks a lot for taking out time and explaining it so well. 🙂 Appreciate it a lot. Would keep in mind next time I write and punctuate.

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        1. 🙂 Glad you liked it; people usually mistake my straight tone for arrogance. I can see, minimalistic writing doesn’t lend a helping hand in case of emotions. That’s one reason I have begun to practicing writing fiction.

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            1. (rofl) Well, ability to make someone think surely qualifies as “substance”. But the substance can only take you so far. Like you said, subtleness is the key. I would add humility and inspiration to that list. 🙂

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