I contacted my editor last week, inquiring about the current view in the publishing world on the number of spaces after a mark of punctuation. Like The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook, and the Modern Language Association, she informed me that the industry is moving to one space instead of two and, in most cases, has already adopted this style.
On her recent podcast, Grammar Girl explains that computers use proportional fonts, meaning that the space that the letter “i” occupies is smaller than the space that the letter “m” takes up. Therefore, a single space after the period is adequate.
“Most typewriter fonts are what are called monospaced fonts. That means every character takes up the same amount of space. An “i” takes up as much space as an “m,” for example. When using a monospaced font, where everything is the same width, it makes sense to type two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence to create a visual break. For that reason, people who learned to type on a typewriter were taught to put two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence.”
I’ve never been resistant to change, but this adjustment in how I type will be difficult, particularly because the two spaces have become the automatic and unconscious way that I construct sentences.
Fortunately, my editor also informed me that my entire manuscript is re-typed upon submission for reasons even she doesn’t understand, so if I double space between sentences, some poor, probably overworked and incredibly bored typist will correct this.
What I would like to see in terms of spacing is for Microsoft Word to adopt the iPhone software feature that inserts a period and a space after a word if I double space, thus indicating the end of a sentence. I use this feature so often on my phone, while emailing and texting, that I sometimes fall into the habit of doing it on my laptop, resulting in scores of missed punctuation on a page.
As I said, I may not resist change, but that doesn’t make it easy.