Typographical Wars: One or Two Spaces After a Period?

From a Wall Street Journal story by James Hookway headlined “The Typographical Space Heats Up”:

Ever since computers displaced typewriters, a rift has grown between people who put two spaces after a period and people who put one. Duane Daiker worries he might be on the losing side.

Mr. Daiker, a lawyer in Tampa, Fla., brought Mignon Fogarty, author of the bestselling “Grammar Girl” books, onto his law-themed podcast in March to settle the matter once and for all. He hoped she would rule in favor of two spaces, as he had been taught in high school.

Instead, Ms. Fogarty predicted that placing two spaces after a period would die out in 10 to 20 years. . . .

Putting two spaces after a period made sense in the mechanical age, when the letters produced by typewriters were all the same width. With a single space at the end of a sentence, the page looked a little cramped. Legal professionals who regularly wade through dense documents loaded with citations are among the loudest proponents.

In these digital days, different letters have variable widths, making words and sentences easier to read. The AP and the Chicago Manual of Style both say one space is sufficient. The Wall Street Journal switched from two spaces to one in its print edition decades ago. . . .

The camps often form along generational lines.

“I was taught in high school to type with two spaces after a period and that’s how I will continue,” said Lou Mulligan, who graduated from high school in the 1990s and is now a law professor at the University of Kansas. “Two spaces follows a period like night follows day.”

Some two-spacers point to a study published in 2018 by three psychology researchers at Skidmore College. The team placed sensors on the heads of 60 volunteers to monitor where they were looking as they read various texts. The subjects who naturally typed two spaces after a period—around a third of the sample—found two-space paragraphs easier to read. For the rest, the impact was neutral. So looking across the population on average, proponents say, two spaces should win. . . .

Other two-spacers have distributed fridge magnets and bumper stickers attesting to the righteousness of their cause. They cheered when they found out that the Mueller report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was written with two spaces after the period.

Mr. Daiker . . .argued that ample space around sentences is just as important now with people reading more material on screens.

“We have to get across that while the practice of using two spaces may have originated due to the mechanical limitations of typewriters, there are very real advantages that remain valid and important today,” said Mr. Daiker.

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