This is a blog about nothing.
Specifically, it’s about the emptiness between words. The void after one sentence ends, before the next begins. The most negligible character in your text, produced by the largest key on your computer.
There is really one thing you need to remember about the space, and it’s this: There is never a reason to have two in a row. After a sentence: one space. After an abbreviation: one space. Between any two words: one space.
The two-space practice comes from the age of typewriters, set in monospace type, in which every letter, number, punctuation mark and space took the same width on paper, and two spaces together helped the reader’s eye recognize the start of a new sentence. Now that most fonts and devices operate in proportional type and will adjust the width of each letter (so an i doesn’t take up as much space as an m anymore, for example), this practice is no longer needed. Worse: it identifies you as antiquated, and more comfortable working on a machine with ribbon you need to wind and change once in a while.
There are two scenarios in which you want to hit the spacebar twice:
- You want to mimic the style of a typewriter because you’re a nerd like that.
- Your phone will interpret a double-space as a transition between sentences, automatically giving you the period to end one and the capital letter to begin the other.
The only thing worse than two spaces is inconsistent spaces. One thing I see often with clients and students is that they’ll put two spaces after a sentence, or even between words. Other times they’ll put one space after it. Sometimes, they’ll even put three. It becomes tedious to go through and delete the extraneous spaces, but it has to be done. You can probably guess how irritating inconsistent spacing can be for a reader, can’t you?
There’s no shortage of rules in English regarding spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Perhaps this is why the space is usually overlooked; after all, it is literally invisible. But even though you can’t see it, you still need to know how to use it.
It may be nothing, but it’s still something.
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