Double-Spacing After a Full Stop

A breakdown of why people use two spaces after a full stop instead of one and why you should probably stop doing it.

Image Credit: 
Public Domain

In my day job, I get given a lot of things to proofread and make edits to. They know I’m a writer, so I tend to look over an awful lot of reports to improve them. Something that I see quite a lot is a double-space after a full stop.

Back in the 18th century, printers had a very complex style guide that varied from company to company, as well as having variations between countries. This included spacing between sentences that was, generally, greater than the spacing between words. This was done as a way to improve readability of the text.

In the late 1800s, typewriters were invented, and this practice carried over. There wasn’t a setting on typewriters, however, that allowed you to vary spacing so the double-space after a full stop became commonplace. Sentences would look like this:

Hello.  I am here.

By about the 1950s, this was becoming much less common in the printing world. A not-insignificant part of this was due to cost. Adding an extra space doesn’t seem like much but it does add up over a large piece of writing. For a 100,000-word novel you could be looking at an extra eight pages of spaces, and if you want to print a couple of thousand copies of that book, it starts getting expensive for empty space.

Then computers came about, with all their variety of different fonts. The beauty of fonts on a word processor is that they handle all the letter spacing, word spacing and sentence spacing automatically and in a way that is designed for readability.

So, is double-spacing after a full stop wrong? Yes and no. Because it falls into style instead of grammar there isn’t a rule per se, but there is a standard, and the standard is to not double-space after a full stop. If you’re writing for you, it doesn’t make any difference how many spaces you put; you can put fifty if you really wanted to. But, if you want to send something to a publisher, they will expect a single space after a full stop. Not all will instantly reject your work because of it—but many will—but even if they don’t, it is going to do you a disservice. Double-spacing is certainly going to be a negative when a publisher is attempting to typeset your work and, these days, you can’t afford to have negatives that are very easily solved.

If you’re still using double-spacing after a full stop I would suggest that you get into the habit of only doing one. It’s going to help your chances with publishers or agents and is going to make your work look more modern immediately. When the majority of people are asked about double-spacing after a full stop, their first reaction is that it’s old fashioned. And that’s not a good first impression to make.

Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.

Join the Discussion

Please ensure all comments abide by the Thanet Writers Comments Policy

Add a Comment