Two Spaces after a Period (aka the full stop)?
This one is actually simple: do not put two spaces after a period. In fact, I did not realize until recently that it was even a point of contention; but boy is it!
So much so, that Berkeley Breathed used it in a series of Bloom County comics spoofing the 2016 election, in which Opus the Penguin tossed his hat into a ring notoriously overloaded with questionable candidates.
Much like Donald Trump and his border wall, Opus found his “wedge” issue to divide the American population and force them to pick a side. However, Breathed’s treatment of this issue is perhaps not as hyperbolic is at seems, as a recent Slate article suggests.
Frankly, this one passed me by. I remember vaguely being told by somebody in high school – perhaps my 8th-grade typing instructor – that two spaces was the correct convention, but it never really stuck. I have more or less automatically defaulted to one space for most of my writing career.
I do remember editing documents for which the author did consistently use two spaces and finding that both confusing and annoying to have to fix. I even remember seeing that Slate article making the rounds on Facebook and feeling slightly vindicated.
I never really thought that two spaces was correct, but when one notices enough other people doing something, one begins to question ones assumptions. This article settled the issue for me.
I was surprised, then, when a friend of mine got rather irate when I brought it up later. We are the same age and come from the same background, but he was quite adamant that we had been taught to use two spaces after a period and that this was the correct thing to do.
He even seemed a little hurt and betrayed, as if yet another childhood axiom had been dismantled while he had his back turned. Alas, if people keep changing all the rules, how are we to know if we are doing the right thing?
In his comic series, Breathed has a character offer up a rather poetic defense of placing two spaces after a period, although I fear the truth is much more mundane. Language is often as arbitrary as it is complex, and although we want to appear competent, doubts remain about how we are supposed to do that.
Compounding matters is that, although people set the rules rather whimsically, they will occasionally react to the violation of these rules with severity.
As always, this is why hiring a proofreader who is up on trends and conventions is a good idea. Nonetheless, I like Cozy’s impassioned plea for the “extra, inefficient space” enough to close with it: