Ali recently asked me why people send us copy that has two spaces after periods and other punctuation. I was tempted to tell her that it could be one of four reasons: A) Outside writers need more breathing room than we do, B) They’re airheads, C) They were trying to extend their page counts or D) All of the above.
We’ll have to go back in history to the days of typewriters to reveal the answer. Remember typewriters? Yeah, those big mechanical things with keys that struck letters on paper. Not quite as ancient as stone tablets, but many of you may not be old enough to have used one. I learned how in high school, and the teacher drilled into us that we should always, ALWAYS put two spaces at the end of every sentence. Being the drones we were, no one ever asked why.
Here’s why: Typewriters used monospaced fonts. That means every character took the same amount of space. A “k” used the same amount of space as an “m,” for example. Because every letter was the same width, adding two spaces made it easier for readers to see where one sentence ended and the next began.
Thankfully, typewriters are now relegated to the dank, cobweb-ridden shelves of thrift shops and everyone uses computers. Most fonts on computers are proportionally spaced, so the characters are different widths. Adding extra spaces doesn’t improve readability; it only annoys those of us who have to go through the copy and delete them.
As a reminder, we follow AP Style, as do most journalists, publishers, marketers and other professionals. The AP rule is one space after a period at the end of a sentence.
The next time you’re tempted to space out, break the habit. I know you can do it!