How Many Spaces Go After a Period?

Get the Answer to the "One" or "Two" Debate

manual typewriter

Image Source / Getty Images

Put just one space after a period.

If you grew up using a typewriter, you were probably taught to put two spaces after a period (a practice called English spacing). But like the typewriter itself, that custom went out of fashion many years ago.

With modern word-processing programs, a second space is not only inefficient (requiring an extra keystroke for each sentence) but potentially troublesome: it can cause problems with line breaks.

In most cases, computers use proportional fonts so that a single keystroke creates the proper space between sentences. (When you're writing online, you'll find that many computer programs won't even recognize a second space.) In addition, there's no evidence that an extra space makes a document any easier to read.

Of course, if you're still using a typewriter, feel free to continue putting two spaces after a period. (And don't forget to change the ribbon now and then.)

Postscript: Spacing After Other Marks of Punctuation

As a general rule, put one space after a period, comma, colon, semicolon, question mark, or exclamation point. But if a closing quotation mark immediately follows any one of these marks, don't insert a space between the two marks. Here's how that looks in American English:

John said he was tired. Mary said she was "knackered." I said I was hungry.

In British English, as a general rule, knackered would be in single quotes (inverted commas) and the period would follow the closing quotation mark: Mary said she was 'knackered'. In either case, don't insert a space between the period and the closing quotation mark.

"Spacing around the dash [or em dash] varies," according to "Merriam-Webster's Manual for Writers and Editors." "Most newspapers insert a space before and after the dash; many popular magazines do the same, but most books and journals omit spacing." So choose one way or the other, and then be consistent throughout your text.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "How Many Spaces Go After a Period?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). How Many Spaces Go After a Period? Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "How Many Spaces Go After a Period?" ThoughtCo. (accessed January 28, 2021).

Watch Now: Why is Proper Grammar Important?