Re. Two spaces vs. one after periods

Subject: Re. Two spaces vs. one after periods
From: Gwen Barnes <gwen -dot- barnes -at- MUSTANG -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 25 May 1995 16:19:31 GMT

-> - Conclusion: Anyone willing to do research to justify SS? How about
-> our other typographic rules of thumb? As editors, we're here to help
-> our readers, not blindly assume.

It's always difficult to apply a scientific model to something that is
basically aesthetic. I truly believe that what goes for art also goes
for type: "I may not know much about (fill in the blank), but *I like
what I know*". We like what we're accustomed to, and tend to notice
the unfamiliar.

I use one space after a period. Always have. Probably always will. My
typographic aesthetics say two spacebands look weird, and distract the

One technical reason not to use two spacebands after a period in
justified type (even left and right margins): Since this is a variable
space, it can, depending on the intelligence of your H&J (Hyphenation &
Justification) system, cause one of the spaces to wrap to the next line
if the period falls right at the end. On some systems, this will cause
an indent at the end of the line or, worse, at the beginning of the next
line. It ruins the effect of the even margins when this happens, and is
so easy to avoid one need not even think about it.

Another, more aesthetic reason: The "correct" amount of space after a
period is probably more like one-and-a-quarter to one-and-a-half times
the normal spaceband value, depending on other things such as the
proportions of the font, the length of the lines, the inter-line
leading, and the white space between characters. The end-of-sentence
space is then wide enough to give a definite "breathing space" between
sentences, but not so wide that it provides a positive interruption in
the narrative.

This is a bit of a black art. The only way to get it right is to try it
and see how it looks, and you'll find that book designers will do just

You can accomplish the effect of a little extra space after a period in
a few ways depending on the technology you're working with. With
hand-set foundry type or linecasting machines, add a thin space or 3-em
space after each sentence (not 3 ems wide, 3-to-the-em) in addition to
your regular word space. Thin spaces can be 3 to the em or 4 to the em,
depending on the font. No rime or reason there that I have been able to
figure out.

For those of us in the real world, you might have a go at editing the
width or kerning tables for your fonts and adding white space to the
right of the period and colon, but *not* for the comma or semicolon.
While you're at it, throw in about half a space at either end of the em
and en dashes. Don't *EVER* use two hyphens when you should use an em or
en dash. It's the one thing that sets the "real" typographers apart from
the slobs.

If editing your fonts' width tables isn't feasible, you could do an
auto-correct in Word 6 to translate "period space" into "period en
space space". Word does support em and en spaces but, sadly, not thin
spaces, which are usually closer to the right width for what we're
trying to accomplish. Pagemaker does support thin spaces, but doesn't
support auto-correct. Oh, well -- do a global search-and-replace when
you're done, or get in the habit of typing the extra space manually.

The true typographic aesthete, however, always hangs the punctuation. I
will leave it as an exercise for the reader to go and find out what
that means, and figure out how to do it without making a total mess
and taking forever. Have fun!

Gwen gwen -dot- barnes -at- mustang -dot- com
MSI * Connecting the world 805-873-2500

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