Re. Two spaces vs. one after periods

Subject: Re. Two spaces vs. one after periods
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 24 May 1995 12:09:59 LCL

I've had a few requests on various mailing lists to post a summary of
David Nadziejka's fine essay on two spaces vs. one. You should be able
to get a copy via interlibrary loan, but in the meantime, here's a
_hasty_ synopsis (and please note that this is a hasty summary... if
I've misinterpreted, blame me, not David):

- David Nadziejka starts with the hypothesis that the visual fatigue
he experiences when reading tightly set text might be due to the use
of single spaces (SS) ather than double spaces (DS) between sentences.
- Previous justifications for single spacing included: "it's always
been done that way", DS might create rivers, "it's been done for so
long that there must be a good reason", DS causes bad line breaks and
uses too much space.
- David notes that rivers haven't been a problem in any of his DS work
over the past 13 years, and that the SS convention is far from
- His own tests reveal no problems with rivers or line breaks [I
assume he means no more problems than with the SS convention],
particularly when he tested a technical text ready at hand in his word
processor: he used variants based on three different fonts (two
proportional serif plus courier) with ragged right and full
justification. Rivers were generally not noticeable even when you
looked for them, but were exacerbated with Courier (a monospaced font)
and/or full justification (which spreads spacing).
- DS between sentences lets you adjust line breaks unobtrusively and
visually clarifies sentence endings. David notes no evidence that SS
has any benefits (particularly since it rarely saves more than a line
or two of space per document).
- Conclusion: Anyone willing to do research to justify SS? How about
our other typographic rules of thumb? As editors, we're here to help
our readers, not blindly assume.

My comment: I'd suggest that the use of small text, and poorly chosen
fonts, may be a more serious problem than SS vs. DS at ends of
sentences. (For example, most journals or newspapers use Times-based
fonts that are designed to conserve space, not for optimum
legibility.) Despite this disclaimer, I second David's points,
particularly his call to question our assumptions and test whether the
assumptions really help the users.

Hope this helps.

--Geoff #8^{)}

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