TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
From: "Bruce Brill" <Bruceb -at- accentsoft -dot- com>
Organization: Accent Software International
To: techrw-l -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu
Date sent: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 13:12:51 +0200
Subject: period, space: 1 or 2?
I'd like to propose a solution to the "period, space: 1 or 2"
The basic function of the period is to indicate the end of one
sentence and the beginning of another. Sentences are units which
contain "a thought" (Please, let's refrain from opening a debate on
this philosophical problem). Likewise, paragraphs are units of a
'grander' trend of thought. These are separated by skipping a line or
indentation. Sections, chapters, volumes are continuations of this
scale of thought lumping.
We all know that there are problems associated with where to separate
these thought units. Yet, there is another, more subtle problem: How
much is one unit distinct from its neighbor that comes before or
Some sentences may be more closely related to their neighbors than
others. Some are very tightly associated; in this case we often
forego the period altogether in deference to a semicolon.
In light of the above, I submit that the one-two space question is not
a question at all, but an answer. The use of one or two (or three or
more) spaces after a period can be a tool to indicate how closely the
following sentence is related to the one before.
This same logic can be applied to the paragraph: What's holy about
skipping precisely one line?
Think about it: There is so little p'zaz in technical writing.
Here's one tiny way that a little subjective creativity can be snuck
in without compromising clarity, but, in fact, enhancing it. (It'll
also put an end to the one-two space debate!)