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Sunday, August 16, 2015

On a lonely island with my two spaces

My perception, based on anecdotal but wide-ranging instances over the last few years, is that most folks use one space after a sentence.  Moreover, those who speak on the subject dismiss the two-space crowd as fuddy-duddies with little or no aesthetic sense.  I must confess--or, I guess it's obvious from this post--that I am a two-spacer, and I really do not want to change.  I *like* the two spaces -- it signals a break, a pause in the action appropriate to the end of the sentence.  Do sentences not matter?  Why should they just get one space like every other word?

Anyway, my questions are these: are there any other two-spacers out there?  If so, why are you still a two-spacer?  And if you are a one-spacer, do you view us two-spacers as relics of some ancient world?  More pragmatically, do law review editors hold two-spacing in poor regard?  Or is it just something they sigh about when they have to do a "find and replace?"

Posted by Matt Bodie on August 16, 2015 at 11:36 AM in Law Review Review | Permalink


I add my vote for two spaces. I tried a move to one space, but it's harder to read then.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Aug 18, 2015 4:04:03 AM

brad, most journals use Microsoft Word for all stages of the article production process. They typically run a set of macros supplied by the professional printer they work with (e.g. Joe Christensen) to format the articles for printing.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Aug 17, 2015 5:31:32 PM

@Nicholson Price

Although most manuscripts may be typed by their authors in MS Word, I hope it isn't used by many journals to produce the camera-ready file sent to the printer or the PDF published online.

Posted by: brad | Aug 17, 2015 1:58:43 PM

I just went through this with my law school's communications department, which changed a document I'd written with my traditional two spaces after a sentence to one space. I had them change it back. They basically told me in some many words that "only old people who learned to type on typewriters use two spaces."

I still had them change it back.

Posted by: anon | Aug 17, 2015 1:12:11 PM

I love the Oxford comma. I don't use it with an ampersand but otherwise insist upon it. Just doesn't seem right without it.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Aug 17, 2015 12:58:18 PM

What is your position on the Oxford comma?

Posted by: anon | Aug 17, 2015 12:27:54 PM

I never event contemplated the prospect that one space might suffice until it seemed that everyone around me had reverted to one space all at once. Now I shuffle back and forth between one and two, occasionally in the same paper, sometimes even within the same paragraph. I both want to be part of the crowd and to be my own person. It's a little like high school, only sadder because it's about punctuation spacing, rather than underage beer-drinking.

Posted by: Rob Vischer | Aug 17, 2015 12:01:56 PM

Another reason, in addition to Nicholson Price's, not to worry to much about the choice is that converting between two spaces after a period and one is not the most onerous manuscript-formatting task. A search-and-replace from period-space-space to period-space takes you from two spaces to one, Going the other direction is a little harder (at least if you follow the silly Bluebook custom of using word spaces rather than thin spaces between ellipsis periods) but can be done in a few passes.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Aug 17, 2015 10:08:07 AM

Though this may seem old-fashioned, I like the look of two spaces, and stick with it. I found the following post on the subject (from a historical typography point of view) excellent: http://www.heracliteanriver.com/?p=324. I particularly enjoyed the postscript:

"For any non-typographers who made it all the way through this [lengthy] article, if you want to double-space, do it. If you want to single-space, fine. Just please don’t try to enforce your view on the world. Stop judging people. Because, really, if you’re not a typographer, chances are the stuff you’re producing in MS Word or whatever has dozens of other worse spacing sins than double-spacing your sentences."

Posted by: Nicholson Price | Aug 17, 2015 9:04:38 AM

I object to the deletion of the second space, which seems to be the trend . . . #AllSpacesMatter

Posted by: andy | Aug 17, 2015 1:46:22 AM

I was completely committed to two spaces (it is how I had been taught) until I read an article ripping on that practice as out-of-touch with new word processing programming that calculates spaces to keep things from looking bad. I figured I'd join the club, and over the next year tried my utmost to wean myself from 2 spaces and go to 1. Then, just when I had completed the painful adjustment in my typing, I had my article published by a law journal that does 2 spaces, not 1, and, good citizen that I am, I went back and added the 2nd space back into the gap after my full-stop.

Thank you for addressing a contentious and mind boggling issue. Can't we just all agree it is 2 spaces? Can't we just get along? Or can we all agree to go to 1 space? Either way, I've now gotten myself hopelessly confused and inconsistent. Worst of all worlds.

Posted by: Andrea Boyack | Aug 17, 2015 1:08:24 AM

I use two spaces, more out of habit than anything else. I touch type lightening fast, and I have for decades. My thumb just goes bounce bounce on the space bar at the end of a sentence when my mind is already a few words ahead.

That said, I also prefer the way it looks.

Posted by: nana | Aug 16, 2015 9:31:43 PM

I persist in my two-space antics, and occasionally I am corrected by the partners for whom I write. I always tell them that I believe the two-spaces helps break up sentences and makes the writing more readable. I will always err on the side of making something more readable.

Posted by: TJM | Aug 16, 2015 8:46:02 PM

One space is better under most circumstances, but two is better iIf you are writing in plain text that is likely to be displayed fixed width (e.g. if you are writing a screenplay, documentation for code, or a plaintext email).

Anon, the site didn't delete your spaces. They're still there if you view the HTML source. It's just that your browser, and everyone else's doesn't display the second space. In HTML, the default is that all whitespace is equivalent. One space, two spaces, three spaces, eight spaces and a tab -- all of those are rendered just as "space."

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Aug 16, 2015 6:03:24 PM

If you are using a typewriter or a fixed space font (why?) use two spaces to very crudely approximate what a proper layout would look like. If you are using a proportional font and decent layout program, it will adjust the spacing appropriately. Happily, many good layout programs are familiar with the people who are still using the typewriter standard and will disregard the second space after a period.

Posted by: brad | Aug 16, 2015 4:17:44 PM

You're all wrong. Everyone should use an en-space after periods.

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | Aug 16, 2015 2:45:40 PM

Two spaces is how they taught us to do it on non-electric manual typewriters in typing class in 9th grade at Norup Junior High School, Oak Park, Michigan, in 1968. I'm told one space is the computer keyboard standard, and just submitted a law review article that way, only to find that the review (U. Cinn. L. Rev.) has a two space protocol.

IMHO, the serif is a far more significant issue.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Aug 16, 2015 12:32:39 PM

Asked and answered:





Posted by: Jon | Aug 16, 2015 12:08:18 PM

PS- This site turned my two spaces into one; obviously, we know its preference...

Posted by: anon | Aug 16, 2015 11:39:32 AM

Two spaces, absolutely. Sentences have no breathing room otherwise!

Posted by: anon | Aug 16, 2015 11:38:48 AM

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