How many spaces should be included after end punctuation such as a period (full stop), exclamation point, and question mark?
It’s true. Believe me. Despite what your teachers taught and typewriters required in decades past, the number of spaces after end punctuation–and after a colon–is one.
Wanting to be certain I was not conveying bad advice, I just checked five current style guides on my bookshelf:
Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications
The Chicago Manual of Style
The Associated Press Stylebook
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
The Gregg Reference Manual
All five dictate the use of just one space.
A sixth reference, The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, waffles. Although it renders all its examples with just one space, and it states that most publishers’ guidelines advise one space, it adds that "there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor asks you to do otherwise."
But there is something wrong with using two spaces: it’s dated and out of step. We spaced twice because of the uniform size of the type on our typewriters. But with computers and word processing software, we have had proportional type (with m and w rendered bigger than i and f) for decades. Why choose to be old-fashioned in business writing?
If you’ve been fighting this change, stop. Some life changes are difficult, but breaking the two-space habit is simple. Get your computer to help you. If you’re worrying about how to remove those redundant spaces in reports you have published for years, just use your software to "Find and Replace All" the two-space occurrences with single spaces. Also, set your grammar and spelling checker to correct you when you fall back into old ways. It’s much easier than taking off excess pounds or exercising every day.
Do you need an inspiring reason to make the change? Think of it as a simple way to improve the world. If we just eliminate all those billions of unnecessary spaces, imagine how much shorter our business documents will be.