Hello. The ’80s called. They want their electric typewriter back.
As a legal marketer I often times debate with partners over whether or not it’s “period-space” or “period-space-space” in a document. As a writer, I often times debate this with random people in cocktail settings. Working with lawyers, who always want me to cite my sources, I am always well prepared. Unfortunately, I don’t always carry my grammar books on me, so I will link my sources here for the inquisitive:
Chicago Manual of Style (online)
The view at CMOS is that there is no reason for two spaces after a period in published work. Some people, however—my colleagues included—prefer it, relegating this preference to their personal correspondence and notes. I’ve noticed in old American books printed in the few decades before and after the turn of the last century (ca. 1870–1930 at least) that there seemed to be a trend in publishing to use extra space (sometimes quite a bit of it) after periods. And many people were taught to use that extra space in typing class (I was). But introducing two spaces after the period causes problems: (1) it is inefficient, requiring an extra keystroke for every sentence; (2) even if a program is set to automatically put an extra space after a period, such automation is never foolproof; (3) there is no proof that an extra space actually improves readability—as your comment suggests, it’s probably just a matter of familiarity (Who knows? perhaps it’s actually more efficient to read with less regard for sentences as individual units of thought—many centuries ago, for example in ancient Greece, there were no spaces even between words, and no punctuation); (4) two spaces are harder to control for than one in electronic documents (I find that the earmark of a document that imposes a two-space rule is a smattering of instances of both three spaces and one space after a period, and two spaces in the middle of sentences); and (5) two spaces can cause problems with line breaks in certain programs.
So, in our efficient, modern world, I think there is no room for two spaces after a period. In the opinion of this particular copyeditor, this is a good thing.
Wikipedia has a full page dedicated to the topic, and another on language and style guides that references the spacing as well.
Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.”
Although how many spaces you use is ultimately a style choice, using one space is by far the most widely accepted and logical style. The Chicago Manual of Style (1), the AP Stylebook (2), and the Modern Language Association (3) all recommend using one space after a period at the end of a sentence.”
And while Strunk and White have remained silent on the topic, you can see that they use the single space in their publication.
To me there really is no debate, but I am happy to compromise nonetheless. In personal correspondence, take your pick, but just be consistent. In any published piece coming out of the marketing department, it’s going to be a single space after a period.
For those of you who are looking for the loophole, here it is: Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong (or, the lies typographers tell about history).
Photo credit: r. nial bradshaw on Flickr.