One Space vs. Two Spaces

*This post is dedicated to my mom and S. Arthur Yates*

In all the years I’ve been teaching creative writing, there’s one point that people find incredulous. In fact, I’ve actually had students disagree with me over this, despite the fact that I’ve worked with editors and an agent, all who spend loads of time reading manuscripts for a living. The truth is, it is now industry standard to only have one space between sentences. Not two.

“But this is how I was taught,” one woman (who will remain unnamed but is related to me) said. “And it wasn’t that long ago. Besides, it’s easier to read with two spaces between sentences.”

I was taught to type with two spaces after each sentence, too. On my word processor. Remember those? But now, with the advent of the PC, it’s no longer necessary to use an extra long space between sentences. In fact, it can leave too much white space and look awkward, depending on the font. Although truth be told, most times I don’t notice a difference at all.

For me, I’m happy to use one space. Less pecking at the keyboard. But for people who are used to tapping the space bar twice, this can be a real annoyance. It’s like learning a new language. It will take time before it becomes second nature. And you know what they say about teaching an old dog new tricks (not that I’m calling anyone a dog).

So to anyone who may be surprised to learn that they are turning in manuscripts that aren’t correctly formatted according to industry standard, here is the information, right from the young horse’s mouth (not that I’m calling myself a horse).

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “One Space vs. Two Spaces

  1. many people I deal with still format the ‘old’ way, and refuse to come around. Thank you for again shedding light on this difficult topic…you’d think things would be settled, now we do it this way…but that’s not so 😉

    • K.L. Gore

      Thanks for your comment, Roxie! I’m always amused by people who’d rather do things the “old-fashioned way.” Every generation has people resistant to change, I guess.

  2. Ben Elling

    I’ve been surprised by how many people MY age don’t realize that you don’t need two spaces after a period. Shouldn’t my generation at least know better? Then again, when I look at what members of my generation post on their Facebook pages … maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

    • K.L. Gore

      I’m still amazed when people I graduated high school with write things like, “True dat!” on their Facebook page. True dat? Really? I’d take two spaces after a sentence over that any day. (The first person to add “True dat!” is having their comment disapproved!)

  3. Steve

    I know you aren’t surprised that I am going to disagree with you, but I am strongly in the two-space camp.

    Let’s start with the obvious – there is nothing wrong with writing in a manner that makes the story easier to read. While many of the arguments of single versus double are subjective, this is not. With a clear demarcation (a double space) of when a new sentence begins the reader can relax and get into the story without having to work through formatting.

    Next, consider the following two sentences:
    “Battles. Do you have any idea how many battles I’ve been in?” Gabrielle raged.
    “Battles. Do you have any idea how many battles I’ve been in?” Gabrielle raged.
    By using a standard two spaces between sentences, you can see the first instance of “Gabrielle raged” refers to a rage in her voice. The second instance references a physical action. That subtlety is lost when the norm between sentences is a single space. (I know you have seen this example, but you cannot explain it away.  )

    And last, and perhaps most important, it’s my story and I’ll write it the way I want.

    • K.L. Gore

      I guess what really ultimately matters is the editor of the publication you’re writing for. If they want you to submit your manuscript with one space, then do it. If they don’t care one way or the other, have a go at three spaces if you wish. Just remain consistent throughout the manuscript. 🙂

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