The History of the Double Space

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The history of the double space

Do you hit the space bar twice after a period or are you a firm believer that one space is the only right way to do it? Learn more about the history of the space and whether you should use one or two spaces after your periods (and if it even matters).

Where did the double space come from?

The single space after punctuation hasn’t been around for long (only about 75 years), but the history goes back further than the double space, which can be seen as early as the 1700s, according to typography blogger James Felici.

While we cannot credit the typewriter with the advent of double spacing, we can attribute some of its popularity to its creation. Users of typewriters had to press space twice to separate sentences enough to make the text readable.

The single space has only been around since approximately the 1940s when books, magazines, and newspapers began using it. However, many individuals still used the double space when using a typewriter. Single spacing wasn’t commonplace until the late 1980s and 1990s when typographers such as Ronnie Shushan and Erik Spiekermann began condemning the use of the double space.

Should I use two spaces?

Whether writers should use one or two spaces has been the subject of debate for years. Some writers, such as Farhad Manjoo of Slate, have even gone to the extreme, saying that using two spaces is “totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong;” others have vehemently defended their right to double space. A recent example is Megan McArdle of The Atlantic who wrote that we could take her double spaces from her “cold, dead hands.”

Using two spaces is a personal choice, influenced by your field and potentially the company you work for.

I’ve always used one space, but if you’re dead set on using two, go for it — unless, of course, your field or company is resolutely against it.

Just remember to be consistent with it.