No, no, no, no and for Pete’s sake, no. There is absolutely no need to put two spaces after a full stop, assuming you’re not still using an Olivetti typewriter from 1964. I’m going to explain how double-spacing after a full stop came about, why it’s no longer necessary and how to easily correct Word documents where the writer has used two spaces after a full stop.
Why was I taught to put two spaces after a full stop?
If you want to tell the world you’re the wrong side of 45, put two spaces after your full stops.
The double space after a full stop is a carryover from the days of mechanical typewriters. Typewriters were monospaced – the space occupied by each character was exactly the same. Consequently, you were taught to put two spaces after a full stop to give the end of a sentence more room to breathe.
Alas, there are people, such as Minister for the 17th Century, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who believe we should still be double-spacing to this day:
As with most things Mogg, it’s horribly outdated.
Why don’t you need to put two spaces after a full stop anymore?
As you’ve probably noticed, computers automatically adjust the spacing between letters to make type easier to read. If you want an example of this, open Microsoft Word and choose the Courier font, which is a monospaced font that looks like what you used to get from a typewriter. As you can see in the graphic below, where the top line is written in Courier, every character has a uniform size, including the spaces.
That’s not the case with modern fonts, such as Calibri used on the bottom line of the graphic below. Here, thinner letters such as the I are afforded less space than wide letters such as the T or W. You don’t need my identically-sized red boxes on the bottom line to see this, it’s obvious from the naked eye.
Modern word processors also automatically add extra spacing after a full stop. The passage below is typed using a single space after each full stop. Look at all that lovely white space after the full stops. There’s no need to press that space bar twice, the computer does it for you, you’re living the dream!
How can I correct a Word document where someone has used double spacing after a full stop?
When someone uses double spacing after a full stop in Word (or other word processors), it’s normally obvious. It just looks wrong. There will be gaping holes in the copy. You could park a Nissan Micra in the gaps.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to fix with Find and Replace.
First, press the show/hide formatting marks icon highlighted below in Microsoft Word. This will put a little blue dot where spaces are, revealing if there are two spaces being used at the end of every sentence.
Now, if you’re using a PC, press Ctrl + F, or if you’re on a Mac press Command + F. This will open the Find menu in the top-right of the screen. Now tap the space bar twice and you should see all the double spaces highlighted, as below:
Now press the little down arrow next to the magnifying glass icon in that Find bar at the top of the screen and select Replace.
A menu should open on the left of the document. Type a single space in the lower replace field (just above the Replace All button) and then press Replace All. If all has gone well, you should now see a message saying all those double spaces have been zonked.
You should be able to confirm it’s worked by looking at those little blue dots. Don’t forget to switch off the formatting marks before you carry on editing in single-spaced bliss.