It seems Microsoft has inadvertently (and officially) settled the great spacing debate that has raged for almost 35 years. Ever since computers were able to use proportional fonts there has been no need to add a second space after typing a period, but it’s a hard habit to break for anyone who began typing on a manual typewriter.
In a recent test Microsoft has begun highlighting two spaces after a period as an error. This change should be available in an upcoming version of Word. If you’re still an adamant two-spacer you can obviously ignore this suggestion, but it seems like the tides are finally turning.
The problem started back when typewriters used monospaced type, meaning every character takes up an equal amount of horizontal space. This limitation creates text that can look loose and uneven – and this extra space between both characters and words making it hard to spot the spaces between sentences easily. Adding a double space after a period makes it easier to spot the sentences, making passages of typewritten text easier to read.
The thing is monospaced fonts started going out of style in the 1970s. Beginning with electric typewriters and then with the switch to desktop publishing, proportional fonts quickly became the standard. Today almost every font on your computer is proportional, the only exception being fonts like Courier, which are specifically meant to be monospaced for very specific tasks (like writing code).
I remember my very first job as a desktop production artist, way back in the days of QuarkXpress 3.2. I was responsible for typesetting a wide range of print materials, from brochures to magazines. The text was always supplied by a sales assistant, who flat out refused to use single spaces after a period no matter how much I pleaded, demanded and begged, forcing me to manually remove the double spaces once I received the floppy disk with her Word document. Needless to say she was wrong, I guess I owe a thank you to Microsoft for proving me right 25 years later. And Therese, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I was so demanding.
So it all boils down to this – if you’re typing on an old manual typewriter, please, absolutely feel free to use two spaces after a period. If you’re typing on anything else, just don’t.