Asking the Important Questions: Two Spaces After a Period, or One?

Dustbury weighs in on some dude’s rant about putting two characters after a period:

In fact, I do this routinely, and no one has ever said a word, and do you know why? Because browsers take out extraneous spaces: “[i]f you write 10 spaces in your text, the browser will remove 9 of them, before displaying the page.” So I’ll type the same way I’ve typed for the last forty-odd years, thank you very much.

Spot on. Millions of us learned to type on actual typewriters, and had to learn how to do this automatically, and were graded on it. And do you know why we were taught to do it this way? Because it lends clarity to the text (see below). But now, because some techno-wizards have decreed hundreds of years of common sense and habit to be suddenly passe, it’s a stupid idea.

Two spaces after a period makes for more white space between sentences, which gives the eyes a break and naturally leads the reader to insert a pause in their thought process, and leads to better comprehension and less eye fatigue. Which also means that for the reader, forcing browsers to implement the standard that Chaz mentions was a step backward.

Example:
Here is a sentence. Here is a second one. And a third, which all blends together, kind of like with commas. But commas are not periods, and text separated by periods should not be treated like text separated by commas. Writers choose punctuation for a reason, and a period is explicitly for putting a definite break, a longer pause, in the thought process, to highlight a point more effectively, say. Like this. Or this.

Now try it with two spaces, see which your eye likes better:

Here is a sentence.  Here is a second one.  And a third, which all blends together, kind of like with commas.  But commas are not periods, and text separated by periods should not be treated like text separated by commas.  Writers choose punctuation for a reason, and a period is explicitly for putting a definite break, a longer pause, in the thought process, to highlight a point more effectively, say.  Like this.  Or this.

See what I mean? The sentences stand apart from each other much better. It’s called scanability, and is a well-known concept in writing, especially technical writing, where comprehension and clarity are key.

I’ve heard various arguments about this before, and I really don’t get it. Removing clarity from written text is really not a very good idea.

But if we’re so anxious to dispose of accumulated wisdom, and if we think whitespace is so unimportant, why not go all the way and get rid of paragraphs too? Just string all that text together! Force the reader to break out the ideas themselves, that’s the key to successful communication! Who cares if people will quit reading it halfway through because of eye fatigue and reduced clarity? Butch up, sissies!

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