One Space or Two?

Indie LifeIndie Life is a monthly feature hosted by the Indelibles.

You may have seen this post already. Last month I accidently scheduled it for today of 2013. Oops! I quickly rescheduled it, but it showed up in some inboxes. Sorry about that!

I planned on posting about time management today, but I found myself in a bit of a rush, so I picked an easier topic. 😉 Today I’ll tackle that great debate, that issue dividing writers everywhere—should you insert one space or two after a sentence?

According to old school typists (like me) who were trained to punch that space key twice after every period, we hear a resounding, “Don’t change things!” If you were one of those students who had to type that old adage “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” a thousand times in typing class on a manual typewriter, you probably find yourself among this crowd. Old habits are hard to break—believe me, I know!—and we’d prefer to go on as we have for twenty years. You know, if it’s not broke…

There was a reason we learned to double space. Manual typewriters assigned the same amount of space to large and small letters, for example, an “l” and a “w.” This gave type a very even-spaced, monotonous look. To create a visible break, two spaces had to be put at the end of a sentence. However, when’s the last time anyone used one of those old dinosaurs? Nowadays, most computer fonts space letters more proportionally, which creates a much more eye-pleasing line of text and eliminates the need for double spaces.

This has prompted changes in the literary world within the past few years. Proportional text takes up much less room than monospaced fonts, which results in cut costs. So most businesses that produce literature in some form now require a single space between sentences. So do most style experts, including The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook, and the Modern Language Association. So, too, do most publishing houses.

So what does this mean for indie writers? After all, we don’t send to publishing houses. We print our own books on our own dime. It means that we don’t have to double space. It’s totally a style choice, and indies are free to make their own choices. However, single-spaced text is so overwhelmingly common now that double-spaced text almost has an old-fashioned look to it.

I still have a few lingering copies of two of my books with double-spaced sentences, and my eye catches them right away. The copies are new and perfectly fine. I’ll continue to sell them until I run out. But when I have to print new, I’ll be eliminating the doubles. I already changed over all my other books and uploaded new ebooks more than a year ago. I think they look more professional and in keeping with the times. But switching my brain and finger patterns over to a new way of doing things proved much more difficult.

When I first started single-spacing, I only remembered about half the time. The result was hideous. I still find errors in some of the blog posts I wrote during that transitional time. I finally got in the habit of doing a search for double spaces and replacing them with singles every time I finished a piece. Even though the new pattern did finally wear a groove in my brain, I continue to search and replace. I always catch a few mistakes. It’s a simple guarantee for professional looking text. And as an indie, professional quality is always my goal.

So, do you singe- or double-space?

5 thoughts on “One Space or Two?

  1. I tend to double space when I write. But, when working on a MS, I single space. My blog is not as consistent, but I’ve had a publisher ask me to single space the reviews of their books. So, I need to be more watchful. I learned to type on one of those old typewriters. Even used one on my first reporting job until electric took over. I even worked on newspapers when they used led type in the early 70s. Have seen many changes over the years. Great info.

      1. Yes, I loved the Mary Tyler Show and Carol Burnett. But, I was in print media. OSU had a very small broadcast dept. Most of us were hard core reporters. My first newspaper internship was in St Paul, MN in 1972 and my first full time reporting job was on a newspaper in NW Ohio in 1973. My guess is you were a tot?

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