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How to Omit the Ugly River of White Space in your Documents

  • By Kevin Andersen
  • Published 03/31/2009
  • Writing

After the period at the end of a sentence, you should leave only one space. Many of you, who are old enough to have used typewriters, remember learning to put two spaces after the period at the end of a sentence. On the typewriter, each letter used up the same amount of space, so the letters “i” and “l” took up much less space than wide letters like “w” and “m.” It was necessary to put two spaces after the period at the end of the sentence to allow the reader to be able to distinguish the end of the sentence more easily. Below, I have repeated this paragraph with two spaces after each period. You can see for yourself the difference in the two spacing techniques.

After the period at the end of a sentence, you should leave only one space. Many of you, who are old enough to have used typewriters, remember learning to put two spaces after the period at the end of a sentence. On the typewriter, each letter used up the same amount of space, so the letters “i” and “l” took up much less space than wide letters like “w” and “m.” It was necessar

y to put two spaces after the period at the end of the sentence to allow the reader to be able to distinguish the end of the sentence more easily. Now, our word processors use proportional spacing so that the letters are spaced according to their sizes. Look at the word will. Note that the w is quite wide but the other letters are very narrow. In a printed book if you use two spaces after the period, you often find something that is referred to as an ugly river of white space through the text. Just about every standard of writing established by publishers or colleges requires only one space after the period including the popularly used APA standard, or the American Psychological Association.

If you are still in the habit of the two spaces, try to break the habit. You can set your word processor to alert you when you leave two spaces. To do this in MS Word, go to Tools, Options, Spelling and Grammar, and under Grammar go to Settings and where it says “Spaces required between sentences,” make that a one. That way you will be alerted whenever you have anything other than one space after the period.

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