by Jennie Ruby
I have probably written about the spacing problem before, but the one-space versus two-space debate keeps coming back, and here is why.
In print publishing, variable-width fonts have always been used. Variable-width fonts do not require an additional space to enhance readability at the end of the sentence. The standard in print publishing has always been no extra space after a sentence.
Meanwhile, in the business world, when typewriters were first invented, they had only single-width fonts, like Courier, in which every letter had the same width assigned to it as every other. That means the narrow letter i receives the same width as the wide letter o. When the lettering is spaced like that, and the period at the end of a sentence is also spaced like that, it becomes difficult to notice the end of a sentence without an extra space. So double-spacing after a period was invented along with the typewriter.
From about 1870 to 1980, from the invention of the typewriter to the invention of the IBM PC, typing teachers rigorously taught every student to put two spaces after the period at the end of a sentence. They taught it with such certitude and vigor that students of those teachers can barely imagine not double-spacing after a period. Double-spacing was the standard in business typing for more than 100 years. Many of today's managers and directors come from this typewriter-based background and experience. These managers usually insist on the double spacing.
Two worlds collide
Soon after the IBM PC was invented in 1980, every business person had on their desk a word processor with variable-spaced fonts just like print publishing. The habit of double spacing should have instantly disappeared. But the aforementioned typing teachers and their students simply transferred their typewriter skills to the computer, and the conundrum of one space versus two was born.
So what do we do?
One space is the right answer. But the practical answer is, if you can't convince your manager or director to go with one space, go ahead and use two.
Join Jennie in our online classes (she'll be teaching two upcoming classes for IconLogic): Writing Training Documents and eLearning Scripts and Editing with Microsoft Word 2007.