How did you stop typing two spaces after the end of a sentence?
November 14, 2014 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Putting two spaces after a period/?! is out of favor now, and apparently has been for a while depending on who you ask. How did you break yourself of this habit? Even typing this I was thinking about it and still had to go back and correct each one!

LinkedIn says it makes you appear to be over 50 years old. I am only 40, dammit, but that's just how I learned.
posted by SpookyFish to Writing & Language (41 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Even typing this I was thinking about it and still had to go back and correct each one!

I don't do this, but many of my coworkers do, and I have to edit their work. Here is a trick that will save your sanity: once you're done typing, use find-and-replace to change EVERY double space to a single space, at once.

I've told my coworkers I do this, but I haven't asked them to change their habits and I don't expect them to.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:31 AM on November 14, 2014 [11 favorites]

I'm thirty and I do this (see, e.g., this answer) and I also have no idea how to stop. The XML program I write in at work actually prevents two spaces from being entered, which is the only way I manage to not to have double spaces in my work product. My iPhone perpetuates the problem by adding a period by using double space.

It may be easiest to add an autocorrect option to Word to correct it.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:32 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't. I still double space. That's just the way it's going to be.

If you are using Word you can, as showbiz_liz recommends use the find/replace feature. Or, even setup the AutoCorrect to always change two spaces to one.
posted by zinon at 11:33 AM on November 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

Well, I am over 50 dammit ... and I do believe that it looks better and makes the text easier to read. Of course, when typing text to be displayed using html or processed with TeX/LaTeX, it just does not matter (and you are just wasting time trying to correct it). However, when looking at the original source, I do find that it looks better (and I wish that browsers would add just a bit more spaces after a period or other end-of-sentence punctuation characters).

So, no, I will NOT break my habit and thus can not offer you any suggestion as to how to break it for yourself.

Final thought: because other say that this is the way to do it now does not mean that they are right.
posted by aroberge at 11:33 AM on November 14, 2014 [11 favorites]

It's how I learned too (I'm 38) but I successfully and easily trained myself out of it. Basically it took a week or so of just making sure to be aware of it while I was typing and going back to correct when I screwed up. Now it's normal and double spaces feel and look weird.
posted by misskaz at 11:34 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

(Of course, when you're writing HTML, you can use as many spaces you want in most contexts, since the browser will throw away the extras when displaying the text. Won't really help with unlearning, though.)
posted by effbot at 11:35 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, if you were wondering why this is the case: on typewriters, every character was forced by necessity to take up the same amount of space. This meant that there were weird gaps in the middle of words any time a skinny letter like 'I' was used. In order to visually distinguish the ends of sentences, it was determined that you'd want to use a wide space, wider than, for example, the space which would naturally form between a letter i and a letter j.

...but, again, each character is the same width. Thus, to make a 'wide space,' you'd need to hit the space bar twice.

Back in the days of typesetting, there was no need for this, because each letter had the appropriate amount of space around it. Modern fonts replicate this.

Basically, double spacing was a hack specifically designed to compensate for the shortcomings of typewriters.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:35 AM on November 14, 2014 [16 favorites]

I had to do it because of school expectations, but for some reason it wasn't a crazy difficulty thing for me to overcome. I was very intentional about thinking about it in relation to my motor response as I was typing, and after awhile, it became nature.

As I was doing it though, I would still double check afterwards by doing a find/replace of double spaces with single ones. As there is really no other place that double spaces are prone to show up, it really doesn't create an errors to do it all in one shot.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:37 AM on November 14, 2014

Nthing to just find/replace or set up an autocorrect. The autocorrect would have the additional benefit of correcting the mistake in real time as you write, which will help you remember to eventually stop doing it.

I was taught this way when I was a kid and then learned it was no longer correct in my 20s. I don't remember how I broke my habit -- I think I just paid attention for a while and stopped doing it. If you have a hard time remembering, maybe stick a note on your monitor to remind you? It doesn't take that long to form a new habit.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:37 AM on November 14, 2014

Also I appreciate your interest in re-training yourself. I have to post other people's content online for my job, and my company's annoying web CMS will automatically add in the HTML for a non-breaking space to force double/extra spaces if it's in the original text. So I have to strip it out manually - and in so doing, I've learned that people are not nearly as consistent about it as they think they are. I always get single- and triple-spaced sentences mixed in with the double-spacers.
posted by misskaz at 11:39 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

As someone who apparently uses two spaces (I had to check), I am pretty skeptical that most people would even notice this in the setting of an email or something like that. I've certainly never noticed that other people use one space until I went and actually checked individual messages. I wouldn't worry about this; life is too short.
posted by selfnoise at 11:40 AM on November 14, 2014

Find/replace, autocorrest, or LaTex, which ignores extra spaces. I am 33 but I think I will type this way forever.
posted by nat at 11:41 AM on November 14, 2014

misskaz, use a regular expression. s/(\s)+/\1/g should do the trick.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:41 AM on November 14, 2014

I always get single- and triple-spaced sentences mixed in with the double-spacers.

I had one coworker who would copy and paste sentences around and never pay attention to whether any extra spaces had come along for the ride. With him, I'd start by replacing six spaces, then five, four, etc. I almost always caught a few six-spacers.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:42 AM on November 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Practice, proofreading, and correcting it every time I type something.
posted by jaguar at 11:43 AM on November 14, 2014

I unlearned it in part because the designer on the publication I worked with at the time gave me sad puppydog eyes and I couldn't stand it. After that, it was just a matter of being conscious of it and retraining the muscle memory thing.

Now I handle the raw documents of people who do or do not use double spaces and BOY DO I NOTICE. It's my job to notice, so I do, but it is noticeable. I try to not care about it unless I am being paid to care.

It is possible to learn to just single-space.
posted by rtha at 11:44 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

At my previous job we used single-space and at my current job it's double space. Very jarring at first, but now it's fine. I still single-space in email and in outside work, so I'm used to switching back and forth.
posted by mogget at 11:44 AM on November 14, 2014

FWIW, I do this too and I'm 30. I actually prefer how it looks, and plan to continue doing it unless there is a specific reason to stop. Obviously if your manager/publisher/etc. is bugging you about it, use some of the above tips to change. Otherwise, this is not something I would invest much or any energy into changing. As in, I would want a better reason than "I don't want to look old," because I think plenty of people under 50 actually do it.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:44 AM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am over 50. I learned by using Twitter. I need every character I can save. When writing here of most anywhere else, I use the double space.


50+ and proud
posted by 724A at 11:45 AM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

The reason two spaces after a period "makes you look old" is because such spacing was only ever used in *published* documents prior to 1940 or so. People who learned to type on typewriters also learned to double space because of the kerning issues on typewriter fonts. The extra space improved legibility. With modern kerning and modern fonts, the extra space actually decreases legibility. As a 39 year-old who learned to type on a computer attached to a dot-matrix printer, I was informed in school that I must use two spaces after a period because the default assumption in the early 80s is that most are using typewriters at home. However, once I started learning about typography and web design in the early 90s, near the beginning of the web, I read several articles that explained the two-space phenomenon. I was able to immediately stop using two spaces after a period without much thought.
posted by xyzzy at 12:03 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I still double space because I believe it makes paragraphs easier to read. From day-one (ca. 1995) it's annoyed me that parsed HTML removes the second space. I don't know how many times I've typed "&.nbsp;" at this point. I was practically jubilant when Dreamweaver added the option to automagically add non-breaking spaces.

I have a hard time believing that the current trend of single space doesn't stem from this HTML quirk.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

As you can see, this is pretty controversial amongst the oldsters. Not to worry, it will die out.

I'm 60 and counting, but I'm a lazy slut and have embraced single spacing with great joy and delight. I figure there's only so many times these arthritic thumbs can comfortably hit the space bar.

TLDR: mindful practice.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:14 PM on November 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

Mod note: Hey folks, more power to the people who embrace their double-spacing lifestyle, but from here on, let's stick to OP's question: suggestions for how to stop double-spacing. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:15 PM on November 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

It's really just a matter of practice. When I decided to switch to single-spacing, I had to go back and correct myself all the time, too. If you commit to it every time you write for the next week (put an obnoxiously bright post-it on an annoying spot on your monitor to remind yourself) you'll train yourself out of the reflex soon enough.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:17 PM on November 14, 2014

It's not really "out of favor," it's just... obsolete. Just like with the majority of people who practice racism and homophobia in the U.S., practitioners of the double-space will also die out. I'm fine with that.

Remember, it's not your fault. You were just a product of your time. (Same.)

But to your actual question, you can retrain yourself; it's just VERY painful at first. It gets easier. It's not unlike learning to wake up early, or give up coffee, or anything else that's terrible! As far as a pro tip for this, I would suggest typing QUITE A BIT while you're unlearning. The sooner you get the new muscle memory, the sooner you'll feel habitual about it.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:17 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was also a hard-core two spacer who changed my ways after just a few weeks of dutiful concentration. You can do it! You may find that your brain rewires itself. Now when I see two spaces it really stands out and grinds my gears.
posted by AndrewInDC at 1:05 PM on November 14, 2014

Single-space-after-period is how every book, magazine, and newspaper article you've ever read from the advent of modern typesetting is spaced. It is not new to HTML or TeX or computers. The two-space sentence break is ONLY a 20th century artifact of the short history of using a typewriter to create manuscript text meant for typesetting. The double space in manuscript signaled clearly the end of the sentence to the typesetter, so the period would not be mistaken for a comma or colon with too little ink on the ribbon or a misaligned typehead. Similarly, underlining on a typewriter really meant 'italicize this word' as underlining was not typically used in typesetting, but later underlining took on its own life. Double-spacing lines or adding extra space between paragraphs are similarly a manuscript artifact; typesetting was almost never double-spaced either, and paragraphs were/are indented, not separated.

The modern personal typing style is predictably now a mix of old typesetting and manuscript conventions munged together. There is room for a little more casual flexibility. But yes, I do associate the two-space period with older people. I don't judge them other than that, but they do stick out to me. I'm not sure they're as noticeable to less pedantic observers.

SpookyFish, I dutifully typed two spaces until I learned all this trivia stuff about typography, then decided I cared, then utilized my natural pedantry on myself to catch and correct myself for a few days of college writing assignments. Thinking about it consciously for just those few days was enough to train myself out of it.

showbiz_liz: Since you're needing to run multiple replace steps anyway, note that you can just run 'replace 2 spaces with 1 spaces' over and over until it finds no new matches. It will gradually shrink the 6-spaces down until all spaces are single.
posted by BlackPebble at 1:13 PM on November 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

It just takes practice. If you work at it, you can rewire yourself to the extent that you'll use one space on a computer, and two spaces on a typewriter. I won't say how I know this because I'm afraid of dying out.
posted by JanetLand at 1:16 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since you're needing to run multiple replace steps anyway, note that you can just run 'replace 2 spaces with 1 spaces' over and over until it finds no new matches. It will gradually shrink the 6-spaces down until all spaces are single.

If you have Track Changes turned on, it gets VERY confused when you do this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:18 PM on November 14, 2014

I'd resolved to quit doing it, too, so when I just changed jobs I quit doing it. I also got a new keyboard, so maybe re-adjusting to the new keys, combined with the determination, equals success?
posted by resurrexit at 1:26 PM on November 14, 2014

Are you using Word? Define a macro that does the find-and-replace for you, and assign it the shortcut "Ctrl + [space]". Hit it periodically when you're writing. It's good for finding inadvertent double spaces in the middle of sentences too. If you're not used to macros, this one would be a simple one and not hard to figure out.
posted by Leontine at 2:01 PM on November 14, 2014

I already begrudge every keystroke I have to make to correct all the sloppy typing mistakes I commit, so I was delighted to drop the double-space and relish all the strokes I'm saving. Maybe it would help you to bear that in mind as well. But I still include a double sometimes, because typing is only easy for me compared with handwriting.
posted by Flexagon at 2:03 PM on November 14, 2014

Best answer: Find and replace or AutoCorrect will fix your final document, but if you are asking how to break the habit of doing it in the first place, these fixes will work against you because you won't be forming a new habit, which is what this is.

Honestly, practice. Do it by hand. Then run find-and-replace and see how there are fewer stragglers each time. You'll get used to it. It will become second nature, I promise.

Signed, a person who must enter two spaces in one sort of work document, and one space in all other work documents. (Don't ask.)
posted by kapers at 2:42 PM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was in exactly this situation and I forced myself to change by forcing myself to change. Every time I typed a period and then two spaces I immediately corrected it to one space. I've been touch-typing for 30+ years and I was able to change my behavior pretty quickly (longer than days, but less than weeks).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:47 PM on November 14, 2014

Last year I made it my New Year's Resolution. I'm serious. I normally don't even do NYRs but I figured that it was the right kind of motivation and all I needed was a few weeks to switch the habit. I totally worked. Now I get twitchy when I see double-spacing, and correct it when I'm reviewing others' writing.
posted by radioamy at 3:29 PM on November 14, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all. I am well versed with the various search/replace options and don't see those as a real solution (as kapers says, it will not help change the habit at all). I would certainly use them for doing anything important like a resume but I primarily type in Outlook and Firefox. It matters very little in my job or career in general, I just think it is a good idea to try and change it now because it will only get harder as the years roll on.

I like the idea of switching to a new keyboard as a way to remind me to watch it, although I do it whether on my desktop or laptop. Worth trying, anyway. Maybe something with an extra-stiff space bar.

What I really need is a background app for Windows that will beep (or shock me) every time {period} [space} {space} is typed.
posted by SpookyFish at 3:31 PM on November 14, 2014

There's no trick to it. Decide you want to do it and try to be mindful of it. Practice. Eventually it will become habit.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:05 PM on November 14, 2014

What I really need is a background app for Windows that will beep (or shock me) every time {period} [space} {space} is typed.

There is an easy way to do this in any program with an autocorrect. Set the autocorrect so that period-space-space turns into something funny/annoying/obvious. For instance you might add the word "OOPS," so period-space-space turns into period-space-space-OOPS.

Now you have an instant alert every time you do it!
posted by danceswithlight at 5:38 PM on November 14, 2014 [9 favorites]

This tweaked my interest :) If I really wanted to stop: Install a Textexpander clone for windows (Google suggests PhraseExpress so that's what I'm trying with), it's built to catch acronyms, common spelling mistakes and correct them system-wide.

Run it-- it puts a little icon in your task-bar (by the clock) right click it and pick `Edit Phrases` and add a new `Unformatted Phrase` by right-clicking on the `New Local File`. Give it a description of `DoubleSpace` set the `Autotext` to be two spaces and to `Exectute Immediately`

In the Phrase content click the gears/cogs, choose `Programming` and then `Show a Message Box`give it a message of "STOP IT!" and set the `Buttons` to just be `OK`. Hit the `OK` to confirm your settings , and then `File` > `Save` the macro.

Now if you ever type a double-space, it'll pop up an annoying message box (which you can just make go away with a third space) until you learn to avoid it.

Or-- just put a rubber band on your wrist and twang it every time you notice a double-space! :)
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:39 PM on November 14, 2014

When I'm trying to avoid the two-space (which is the style at work so I'll never be able to break the habit) I switch the style called "normal" to a monospaced font. It's easier to see visually. When I'm done composing, I just change the font back in the style definition.

Watch out for the search/replace trick on other people's documents. There are still people who use space characters instead of tabs for alignment. Drives me crazy.
posted by ctmf at 4:09 PM on November 15, 2014

I am 59 years old. I learned to type on a Selectric II in high school in 1973 or so. I went through college and several years of work using typewriters. I put two spaces after a period. Then, at some point, a coworker who was very well-versed in typography told me that with non-monospaced type (like on the computers I was now using professionally) two spaces are unnecessary. So I quit using two spaces. I don't remember having a great deal of difficulty breaking the habit, and I even quit using it when I compose in my favorite typeface -- Courier.
posted by lhauser at 9:32 PM on November 17, 2014

« Older Looking for my next group of "Friends"   |   Take me on a tour of words, to places you remember Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.