Spaced Out?

The quickest, easiest way to tighten up your copy is to follow this rule: Only ONE space after periods and colons.

Back in the day, two spaces after end punctuation was the norm; these days, it comes across as anachronistic. Reducing your spaces to one makes the copy look neater, more streamlined. In a small way, it also is a space-saver — you can squeeze more letters on any given line when you only skip one space after each period.

This especially comes in handy when you're writing for a newspaper, a magazine, a brochure or anything with fixed columns, and you are trying to avoid having or solve existing widows (more on widows in a future post).

I've used two spaces in the sample paragraph below to illustrate:

If I had a dollar for every time I reviewed a document with two spaces in between sentences, I'd be a wealthy woman.  Many people are taught this in school.  They never realized that they could only use one space.  One space not only looks more pleasing to the eye, but it also saves a couple letters per line.  That can be extremely helpful to a designer.  Having to kern (reduce the space in between letters) copy is less necessary with more overall space.  As a copy editor with an eye for layout, I've been in the situation many a time when we needed one more letter to make a two-line headline a one-liner.  And skipping just one space makes it that much easier.  One space is now standard practice now.  Venerable publications like The New York Times practice this style.  And so should you.

Let's look at that same paragraph with one space after end punctuation:

If I had a dollar for every time I reviewed a document with two spaces in between sentences, I'd be a wealthy woman. Many people are taught this in school. They never realized that they could only use one space. One space not only looks more pleasing to the eye, but it also saves a couple letters per line. That can be extremely helpful to a designer. Having to kern (reduce the space in between letters) copy is less necessary with more overall space. As a copy editor with an eye for layout, I've been in the situation many a time when we needed one more letter to make a two-line headline a one-liner. And skipping just one space makes it that much easier. One space is now standard practice now. Venerable publications like The New York Times practice this style. And so should you.

The difference is slight (11 lines as compared to 12, because of the widow "you"). This concept especially makes a difference in copy with small columns, as well as large fonts, headlines and subheads.

Got a question or comment? Let me know!

Carla

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