The 2-space rule

Monday, September 22, 2014 Permalink

I’m not supposed to be writing this. In fact, I need to download that software which forbids you from going online or opening other programs when you’re supposed to be focussing on something else.

However… I’m writing something and – as one does – cutting an pasting from an old document. And I noticed the thing I’m cutting and pasting from is very old as I’ve left TWO spaces after the end of each sentence.

Remember that rule? Anyone who learned to type back in the 1980s (or earlier) on things called typewriters was told to leave TWO (not one but two) spaces after a full stop* and before the subsequent sentence.

i-judge-grammar

It was a punctuation rule. Or a commandment or something.

I wasn’t the best typing student and regularly got separated from a friend for talking. And I recall we had to wear those bib things that covered the keyboard so we couldn’t look down and cheat and look at the keys.

Ahhh yes… the good old (draconian) days of teaching. Bitching aside, learning to type was obviously a good thing as I’m pretty fast with the keyboard now. Of course at the time we didn’t know that 20 or 30 years hence we’d be grateful to the authoritarian typing teachers of decades past.

Me learning to type. Ok, not me. Source: julielittleconversation.fr

Me learning to type. Ok… not me.
Source: julielittleconversation.fr

But, I’m digressing… back to the spacing issue.

I recall being told during a novel-writing / creative writing workshop that when submitting to publishers (etc) you NEVER leave two spaces between the full stop and next sentence. Never, like… not ever.

I’m not sure when that seeped into my everyday writing. When I worked in government we had VERY strict rules and guidelines about punctuation, grammar and formatting. Each department usually had its own foibles – depending on the Minister of the day (lists starting with small letters and semi colons; lists starting with capitals and no semi colons etc). You know… the important stuff. But I cannot remember if there were rules around the full stop. Perhaps it’s now just the norm to leave one space (and not just a writing / publishing thing). I’m not sure.

Anyone know if the two-spaces-after-the-full stop-rule still exists? Is it something that’s still taught? 

PS. I’m joining the Laugh LinkUp today.

PPS. And no… I’m really not procrastinating. I swear. I just *ahem* really REALLY needed to know….

* Full stop = period for my US readers!

29 Comments
  • Suzie
    September 22, 2014

    It’s a software thing. I well recall those days of two spaces as it took me a very long time to rework my brain to only type one space. In the old days, with a teacher with a blue rinse, or purple rinse (depending on the week) the typewriters were a fixed font (I learned on a manual typewriter and always had trouble as I could rarely hit the keys hard enough) and you had to type two spaces in order to make it easier for the eye to see the end of the sentence. In the early 90s I learned about computer software and proportional spacing which meant you only needed one space to signal the end of the sentence as the software automatically makes it a little larger. The software can also add in some extra paragraph space so you no longer need to put in two carriage returns (now called the ‘enter’ key) as we used to do with the lever but only put in one and then add some extra space using the correct tools.

    • Debbish
      September 22, 2014

      I haven’t actually used any software which formats stuff for you… I did download a free Scrivner trial last year sometime though.

      • Suzie
        September 22, 2014

        You’ve never used Word? There’s formatting in there whether you know about it or not.

        • Debbish
          September 22, 2014

          I’ve used word but mine doesn’t default to two spaces… I don’t think!

  • MyBlissPoint
    September 22, 2014

    I am in a Ph.D program, and the university I attend uses APA (American Psychological Association) style writing. The rule in the APA manual is 2 spaces after the period. In my email I use 2 spaces and in blog writing I only use one space. No idea why, it’s just weird rules in my head I guess.

    • Debbish
      September 22, 2014

      I know! It wasn’t until I noticed that I ALWAYS used to add 2 spaces that I wondered when I stopped. I do recall going back to old blog posts to edit something and taking out the extra space, so I obviously did it online once too!

  • Pinky Poinker
    September 22, 2014

    I’ve never heard of two spaces but I didn’t learn typing… much to my deep regret. I’m a two fingered typist. Back to work you! 😉

    • Debbish
      September 22, 2014

      Ha yes! First draft done so I’m allowed a little break!

      You’ve got me wondering if they even teach typing nowadays….

  • Shannon @ Lessons in juggling
    September 22, 2014

    I learnt to type in the 90s and it was always the two-space rule then. I am trying to break the habit however it is tough. I basically try not to have a conniption knowing that my writing is a mix of one and two spaces after the full-stop. (Yep…stll using two spaces in this comment as well. I just checked)

    • Debbish
      September 22, 2014

      Hee hee… old habits… bloody hard to break!

  • Ed @ The Tunnel
    September 22, 2014

    I read an article about the two space/one space debate on Facebook a while back. Alas, I can’t find it now. I can remember the thrust of the article was that people who use two spaces after a full stop would have learned to type on a manual typewriter (guilty as charged!) and that there is no need for two spaces nowadays when using a computer.

    Alas, old habits are hard to break. Not only do some of us still use two spaces but the Facebook discussion quickly turned into a fiery attack/defence of one spaces versus two. And yes, I have been double spacing throughout this comment – still!

    • Debbish
      September 22, 2014

      Oh wow… So Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are probably 2-spacers and Gen Ys (onwards) 1-spacers. A battle of the generations. (or something!)

  • Sandra Kelly
    September 22, 2014

    Gosh I still use two spaces. There I just did it then. I had no idea the rule had changed! Nope, just doesn’t look right if I do just one. Hard habit to break!

    • Debbish
      September 22, 2014

      I’m starting to think it was a typing rule rather than anything else…. Some of us may *ahem* be showing our age! 😉

  • hugzillablog
    September 22, 2014

    Nope, very much Gen X here and I have honestly never heard of the two-space rule!

  • BOYEATSWORLD
    September 22, 2014

    I’m a Gen X editor and have always been a single spacer… that may be because I am a self-taught typist and it could have something to do with the proportional spacing on manual typewriters.

    • Debbish
      September 22, 2014

      Yes, I’m fairly sure mine just dates back to my typing teacher. (Who I hated incidentally!)

  • perkinsy
    September 22, 2014

    As you have noted, people who learned to type in the days of the typewriter were very firmly told that they must use two spaces. Now that we have proportional spacing we should be using one space according to those who design fonts. But habits proverbially beaten into us during typing classes are hard to change. Twitter has helped me to mend my ways. That extra character saved by having only one space after a full stop is very useful! However, I fear that now I am inconsistent in the rest of my typing. And there is nothing worse than inconsistency in punctuation and grammar :-/

    • Debbish
      September 22, 2014

      Very true! Consistency is king!

  • Char
    September 23, 2014

    I didn’t know that there was any such rule. But then I only had one term of typing. (Yes, term – before they brought in semesters. I’m that old).

    • Debbish
      September 23, 2014

      I get the feeling our personalities are similar so you were probably somewhat bored during typing as well….

  • Mark Downey - FULLHALFGLASS.COM
    September 23, 2014

    I used to be a two space person but as my small gesture to do some heavy lifting for the country I’ve decided to cut back to using just one.

    Damn it feels good to contribute

    • Debbish
      September 23, 2014

      Well done. Am sure you’re far more productive and far less wasteful! 😉

      Should be more of it!

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    September 24, 2014

    I remember the double space rules as an old typewriter user but today it’s just one. And in the media/newspaper world just one, as far as I work with in News Ltd – thanks for linking and sorry for late reply I’m in NZ with rellies! xx

    • Debbish
      September 24, 2014

      Ah, enjoy your holidays! Good to know that the one-space rule is relatively official. Must ask some of my (former) govt colleagues what they’re doing nowadays – in terms of the one-space rule that is! 😉

I'd love to hear your thoughts