The Grammarphobia Blog

Separation anxiety

Q: I have a background in journalism and print media. At work, I use one space after a period. However, I was taught throughout school to use two. Which is correct?

A: The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.) has this to say: “In typeset matter, one space, not two (in other words, a regular word space), follows any mark of punctuation that ends a sentence, whether a period, a colon, a question mark, an exclamation point, or closing quotation marks.” See section 6.11.

That’s good enough for me!

Interestingly, this whole idea of separating English sentences with periods and spaces evolved over hundreds of years. In the early days, punctuation was largely a rhetorical device, used as an aid to reading aloud.

Modern English punctuation – with points, marks, and spaces used primarily to separate grammatical rather than rhetorical units – evolved in fits and starts after the introduction of printing with movable type in the late Middle Ages.

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