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Thread: How many spaces after a colon?

  1. #1
    Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. kaitie's Avatar
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    How many spaces after a colon?

    "You will experience a tingling sensation and then death."

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  2. #2
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    one.


    unless you mean a real colon, then it'll be the length of the rec... (oh, is it bad that I say the word?)

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  3. #3
    That cheeky buggerer Maxinquaye's Avatar
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    /me tiptoes out of the thread after seeing the colonoscopic direction that the thread immediately took...
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  4. #4
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Back in the typewriter day, when fading ink ribbons could result in commas being mistaken for periods and vice versa, typists were taught to insert 2 spaces after the period to differentiate between the two. Ditto with colons and semicolons, 2 spaces after a colon, 1 space after a semicolon.

    These days, with word processors and laser printers and whatnot, I dunno if it makes a difference. So the answer is probably, use one space or two, doesn't matter, as long as you keep it consistent.

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  5. #5
    Know what you write...
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    dpaterso already explained where the whole idea of 2 spaces came from. Gee, I feel old. I had a typewriter when I was younger. Anyway, don't make things more complicated then they need to be. Now that we have computers you only need one space no matter what the punctuation mark is.

  6. #6
    Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. kaitie's Avatar
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    Domo.
    "You will experience a tingling sensation and then death."

    And just because it's still awesome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSgiXGELjbc

    Take two: 90,008
    Current: 7,680



  7. #7
    What? I have a title? Julie Worth's Avatar
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    I put one space after everything. That allows me to do a find and replace on two spaces for one, keeping everything consistent. If someone's house style is different, they can change it themselves.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Nadia's Avatar
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  9. #9
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    One.

    I had never, ever heard of this 'two spaces' thing before joining AW and I learned to type on a typewriter.

    A split-level finger-mangler too, none of your electric gubbins.

  10. #10
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scarletpeaches View Post
    I had never, ever heard of this 'two spaces' thing before joining AW and I learned to type on a typewriter.
    You'll appreciate that international typing standards were defined long, long before you tapped out your first swear word. Pitman courses trained typists to use 2 spaces after period and colon.

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  11. #11
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    Quite.

    But even after mixing with other writers in real life (not for me, hence my appearance online) I never heard any of them mention this formatting 'rule'.

    And I'm speaking as someone who knows Pitman's.

  12. #12
    Clever User Title Mara's Avatar
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    My idiot, living-in-the-Dark-Ages high school keyboarding teacher taught us all that crap, and now I can't stop myself from putting two spaces after periods, question marks, and exclamation marks. I have to use Find and Replace to fix it. Grrr...
    I can never remember to update this signature.

  13. #13
    Living the dream CaroGirl's Avatar
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    When I first learned to type I used two, but I've since managed to retrain the brain (and fingers) to use only one. Some software applications will allow only one space after any punctuation. I loves those applications.

  14. #14
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    I learned to type on a typewriter (yes, I'm 65 years old!!!!) and I only learned to put two spaces after a period, not semicolon or colon -- there was only one space.

    I didn't want to work. It was as simple as that. I distrusted work, disliked it. I thought it was a very bad thing that the human race had unfortunately invented for itself.
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  15. #15
    Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. kaitie's Avatar
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    I learned to type on a computer and I learned two spaces instead of one. It often depends on the manuscript style as well. AP is actually one after a period, whereas uh...that other one I used to use in school I can't remember the name of was two. Annoying. I do two after periods because that's how I was taught and it looks weird to me otherwise.

    Oddly, my thinking was more that the answer had to do with what came after the colon than anything else. Namely, if it was a complete sentence it would be two spaces and if not it would be one. I clearly had no idea what I was talking about. However, this has cleared up the answer quite well--either one is fine!
    "You will experience a tingling sensation and then death."

    And just because it's still awesome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSgiXGELjbc

    Take two: 90,008
    Current: 7,680



  16. #16
    I stop at railroad crossings
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    I only put one space after any punctuation. I've been using typewriters (and then computers) since I was ten years old (1960).

  17. #17
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    I use one space after a colon, two after a period as writer. Two is the way I was taught, and as an editor, I appreciate all the extra space a writer can give me.

    But it really isn't an issue. Anyone who notices how many spaces you put after a period has already lost interest in what you actually wrote.

  18. #18
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    It's a single space after a colon, period, question mark, or exclamation point.

    It's only important in that it helps you look like a professional.

    That said, if a publisher or editor asks you to use three spaces, and Comic Sans 19 point in flamingo pink, then by golly, you do it with a smile and be ready to grab the check.

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  19. #19
    The grad students did it NeuroFizz's Avatar
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    Agree with Lisa. If the writing between and around the punctuation marks is interesting and publishable, I doubt an agent or editor will give a rat's arse about being colonic over spacing.
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  20. #20
    Sheriff Bullwinkle the Poet says: RJK's Avatar
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    I can't believe we can find this many people to comment on a space. Imagine what would happen if we had something of substance to discuss.

  21. #21
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    The problem is when the writer is inconsistent. A space here and two spaces there. It makes the typesetter's job very difficult to conform to house style. The "search and replace" function doesn't always work so well.

    I didn't want to work. It was as simple as that. I distrusted work, disliked it. I thought it was a very bad thing that the human race had unfortunately invented for itself.
    -- Agatha Christie





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  22. #22
    resident curmudgeon
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    Quote Originally Posted by maestrowork View Post
    The problem is when the writer is inconsistent. A space here and two spaces there. It makes the typesetter's job very difficult to conform to house style. The "search and replace" function doesn't always work so well.
    It doesn't bother any typesetter I know. Spacing is the one area where nothing in the manuscript matters in the least to the typesetter. If you quadruple space between sentences, paragraphs, or anywhere else, his job is to simply follow house style in these areas.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medievalist View Post
    It's a single space after a colon, period, question mark, or exclamation point.

    It's only important in that it helps you look like a professional.

    That said, if a publisher or editor asks you to use three spaces, and Comic Sans 19 point in flamingo pink, then by golly, you do it with a smile and be ready to grab the check.
    I agree with the other punctuation, but single space after a period doesn't make a writer look one bit more professional. Less so, to many of us.

  24. #24
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    I agree with the other punctuation, but single space after a period doesn't make a writer look one bit more professional. Less so, to many of us.
    Actually, that's a good point--let's say it adds a small extra step.

    OK?

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  25. #25
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    It doesn't bother any typesetter I know. Spacing is the one area where nothing in the manuscript matters in the least to the typesetter. If you quadruple space between sentences, paragraphs, or anywhere else, his job is to simply follow house style in these areas.
    Yes, but he has to FIND all that stuff to change it. If he doesn't know there's a quadruple space somewhere, he won't be able to change it and then the galley comes back and someone says, "Why the heck does it look so far apart?" That's why I say "consistent." If there are always four spaces after a colon, the typesetter can simply search and replace.

    I didn't want to work. It was as simple as that. I distrusted work, disliked it. I thought it was a very bad thing that the human race had unfortunately invented for itself.
    -- Agatha Christie





    The Pacific Between A Bunch of Stories
    (2006 IPPY Award)

    WIP: Beyond the Banyan Tree - draft 9, 125,000 words

    Home Page | Blog | Reviews

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