The phrase “one and done” typically isn’t associated with good writing except in one instance: the amount of space between a period and the first word of the next sentence. If you’re still putting two spaces after a period, I’ve got some bad news for you: you’re doing it wrong.
Disagree? You’re not alone. Those who persist in perpetuating the two-space mindset are passionate about its use and accuracy. Often we agree to disagree.
I once read an article that declared, “Nothing says ‘over 40’ like two spaces after a period.” And it’s true (although I know a lot of people approaching 40 with their feet firmly planted in the two-space camp as well). Why? Because of the typewriter.
Way back in the day, typewriters used monospaced type. This means that every character occupied the same amount of horizontal space, regardless of its width. As you can see, the result was significant, often uneven, white space between characters and words, making it difficult to tell where one sentence ended and a new one began. Thus, the two-space rule was born.
In the late 1970s, however, that all changed. Electric typewriters and computers were outfitted with proportional typesetting (in which thinner characters like “1” or “!” were given less space than more portly ones), negating the need for that extra space. Two spaces no longer enhanced readability but rather diminished it.
Today, virtually every font (with the notable exception of Courier) is proportional. But old habits die hard. When you’ve been adding that extra space after every sentence for 30 years or so, change doesn’t come easy. But know this—it’s not a matter of preference, nor is it open for debate. Every modern typographer and every major style guide (Chicago, MLA, etc.) agree on the one-space rule, “rule” being the operative word. And while some rules are meant to be broken, this isn’t one of them.
Word of the Week: Canonical
Song of the Week: “The Space Between,” by Dave Mathews Band