Don't double-up!


Here's a source of much debate: should you put two spaces after a full-stop? Absolutely not!

So why do so many people do it? Well, it's all the fault of the typewriter…

Since the invention of printing using 'movable type' — i.e using a separate metal block for each character — the typesetter (who put the blocks together to make the text) has always had spacers of various widths they could use to make the layout look right. So they could put in a larger one after a full stop.

However, a typewriter doesn't have this function, as it can only produce 'mono-spaced' text, i.e every character has exactly the same space allocated between it and its neighbours. This tends to look a little unnatural as thinner letters (i,j,l) still take up the same space as their much wider cousins (w,m). To compensate and make the text flow better, the double-space after a full-stop method was adopted.

Your software is better than you when it comes to letter-spacing, leave it to do its job

Fast forward to modern computers though and this issue is no longer a problem. In fact, modern computer text is more akin to the original movable type than the typewriter (despite sharing a keyboard layout). Modern software allows digital typefaces to automatically alter the spacing for every letter dependent on its immediate neighbours. So it can vary the space after a full-stop as well to make the layout look just right.

Does it matter if I still use a double space?

Yes. For three reasons.

Your software is better than you when it comes to letter-spacing, leave it to do its job

It may create more obvious 'rivers' of white space in your copy as you look down the page, especially if you use justified text (which should probably be avoided as well)

If you give the text to a designer, in most cases they will simply do a find and replace for any double-spaces and remove them anyway, which means you've wasted effort creating them in the first place, and caused them an extra task for no reason

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