Since the advent of proportional spacing that word processing programs provide, it’s been deemed unnecessary to place two spaces after a period (or other punctuation at the end of a sentence). This custom harks back to the days of typewriters, when two spaces followed a full stop at the end of a sentence. In a line of nonproportional spacing, this made it easier to discern that the sentence was, in fact, at an end. Today, both word processing and layout software such as InDesign have a tiny, built-in space in the period character (and exclamation mark and question mark), resulting in slightly more than one space following the period and subtly allowing for the slightly larger visual break the eye welcomes at a sentence’s end.
Having one space instead of two at the end of a sentence is still a matter of contention in rare circles. A few people just can’t let bad old habits die in dignity. But almost all publishers, book designers, and editors now advocate using only one space after a period.
Most editors want to see a manuscript arrive in ideal shape for editing, and that includes single spaces after every period. If you’ve created a long document or manuscript with two spaces after every period, never fear; there is a quick method to correct this. Here’s how:
In MS Word, select Find. To find Find, in Word 2007, you can click Ctrl+F, and in Word 2010, click Ctrl+H. You’ll get a Find and Replace dialogue box. Choose the Find tab, and in the Find what field, press the space bar twice. Next, select the Replace tab, and in the Replace with field, press the space bar once. Click on Replace all. The program will automatically replace each double space with a single space.
Run this search several times in case you’ve accidentally placed more than two spaces after a period. Each search will successively remove one space. This entire process takes less than a minute and will remove hundreds or thousands of double spaces in just a few keystrokes or mouse clicks.
Your editor will be delighted!
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