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To Space or Not To Space and Other Typewriter Throwbacks

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A computer is not a typewriter…

Think back to when you learned to type. Were you taught on a typewriter or a computer?
If you answered “typewriter,” you might want to sit down before you read any further, because this rule may come as a shock.

You should only use one space after a sentence.

Yep, you read that right: one space.

If you were taught to type on a typewriter, you probably had it pounded into your head that you needed two spaces after a sentence. And that was true on a typewriter.

But there are some big differences between typewriters and computers. The specific difference that brought about this rule change is how each machine handles fonts.

On a typewriter, you were locked into the font that the keys had been created in. And that font was a mono-spaced font. This means that each letter or symbol took up the same amount of space as every other one – one size = “mono.” So on a typewriter, a lowercase “m” was the same width as a “.”

Most fonts for computers are not mono-spaced. This means that the font adjusts the sizes based on the specific letter or symbol. Go back and look at that lowercase “m” and the “.” You can easily see that they are not the same width. Because computer fonts adjust, it’s much clearer, visually where the spaces between words and sentences are. So you no longer need the big chunk of white space that you’d get from putting in two spaces at the end of your sentence.

If you want to see what I mean even more clearly, try typing a paragraph in Times New Roman and then copy that paragraph and put it in the Courier font. (Courier is a mono-spaced font, very similar to a typewriter.) Compare and contrast and it will be easy to see when you need more white space and when you don’t.

Don’t think you’ll ever be able to break your two-space habit? Wait until you’re done typing, and then do a search and replace to swap in one space for two.

Rachel is a full-on, hardcore grammar freak. Her favorite punctuation marks are parentheses, em dashes and ellipses. She still loves adverbs, but is trying to wean herself off them. And she truly believes that it’s okay to split an infinitive. In addition to her grammar obsession, Rachel writes light contemporary romance – occasionally with a paranormal twist – and is published in short fiction. Rachel also works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. Learn more at www.rachelmichaels.com.

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  1. Be Detail-Oriented or Error-Prone – Jibe Talkin' - [...] Manual of Style) dictate that using two spaces after each period is a convention that has been carried over …

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