View Full Version : MS Format/2 spaces after sentences?

01-10-2006, 10:02 AM
There's one aspect of proper formatting I'm not 100% sure about. Lines are double-spaced, yes, but I've also read in some places, although not in others, that sentences should be separated by two spaces. Like this. And then this. I want to use the accepted format. However, the two spaces between sentences means I'll need to go over my complete ms. I want to make sure it's necessary before I invest the effort. I don't want to have to change it back. Which is correct?


Andrew Jameson
01-10-2006, 04:44 PM
Not an expert, but I believe two spaces is proper. This guy (http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html) agrees, although I have also seen different.

I should point out, too, that changing from one style to another isn't that onerous if you use search-and-replace. Search for "period-space" and replace with "period-space-space," then repeat for question mark, exclamation point, and the combinations with quotation marks. The other way is even easier: replace all double spaces with a single space.

Andrew Zack
01-10-2006, 06:37 PM
I prefer two spaces. It does, believe it or not, make it easier to read the work.

If you are writing in MS Word, you can set your spelling- and grammar-checker to check for two spaces after each sentence. Then spell-check the manuscript again. It will allow you to replace each instance with the right number of spaces.

The only problem with suggestion above is if you have Dr. or Mrs. or something similar anywhere in the ms, you will be putting two spaces after it. Of course, it might be worth it to have a couple of typos like this, rather than going the other route.


Julie Worth
01-10-2006, 06:43 PM
I want to make sure it's necessary before I invest the effort. I don't want to have to change it back. Which is correct?


Most want one space (see the Chicago Manual of Style (http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/cmosfaq/cmosfaq.OneSpaceorTwo.html)), but there's no effort involved. In MS-word, select EDIT, then FIND. Type in two spaces in the blank for Find what, then one space in the blank for Replace with. Press the button Replace all. Done!

Alternatively, you can type a period and two spaces in the first blank, and a period and one space in the second. But that's not really necessary, since there's no reason to have two spaces anywhere in the MS.

You can always undo this using the reverse procedure, but you’ll have to fix the problem Andy mentioned separately. For instance, type in Mr. and two spaces in the first blank, and Mr. and one space in the second. Be sure to select MORE, and check off the Match case box. Then do Dr., Mrs., Ms., and whatever else. Fix ellipses the same way—replace . . . with ... (and etc., for etc. ,)

Andrew Zack
01-10-2006, 06:47 PM
Again, I prefer two spaces. One space is appropriate if you are typesetting your book, which you are not. If you get a sale and the publisher has different guidelines, it is easy enough to eliminate two spaces.

White space on a manuscript makes it more readable. There's a reason so many of us in publishing like Courier typeface (I prefer the old version, rather than new) and insist on one-inch margins. It's easier on the eyes. Also use bright white paper, please.


01-10-2006, 07:27 PM
hmm, can't find my CMS right now, just re-did my office and some stuff is still stacked in boxes, but I've always been taught, even back in Jr. High taking typing on a typewriter that it was 2 spaces.


01-10-2006, 09:53 PM
My take on this is just slightly different from Mr Zack's. He prefers Courier (that is, monospaced) fonts in work he is considering. That's fine; after all, he writes his own guidelines. For monospaced fonts, two spaces after the period does make sense, because the monospaced period is already artificially "farther" from the sentence it ends.

Guidelines that call for (or allow) proportionally spaced fonts, though, will probably silently wish for a single space after a period. In those instances, the period, being much closer to the letter with which it is associated (and even, in some instances, kerned slightly underneath that letter, such as a capital P), just isn't "floating" like it is in a monospaced font.

Thus, the default rule I would suggest—"default" meaning that if the guidelines say something different, follow the guidelines—is:
monospaced font (e.g., Courier): two spaces after colons and terminal punctuation, one space after other nonterminal punctuation
proportionally spaced font (e.g., Century Old Style): one space after all punctuation except four-dot ellipses, which should get two spaces

There. Have I been pedantic and rule-oriented enough to convince anyone who doesn't know that I'm a lawyer?

Andrew Zack
01-11-2006, 08:20 PM
Editors and publishing houses like Courier. From a production standpoint, a monowidth font is important in doing cast-offs and figuring out how long a finished book might be. The "old" Courier was darker and a bit heavier than Courier New, but very few systems have it now. There are other monowidth fonts out there, but they are not very nice to look at.

01-12-2006, 06:51 PM
From a production standpoint, a monowidth font is important in doing cast-offs and figuring out how long a finished book might be. Just as an aside on book cast-offs, most cast-offs these days—and virtually all in serious nonfiction and for manuscripts with any interior illustrations whatsoever—are done using a variety of spreadsheet-based formulae that are substantially more accurate than any count taken from a monospaced manuscript based on counting stuff on a page. From what I've seen, the only cast-offs that anyone really relies upon with a great deal of consistency (or have a great deal of accuracy using modern typesetting systems) seem limited to relatively short pieces in periodicals and to some niches in fiction; regardless of what editors tell one, the production department will do its own statistics-based castoff, for which the font in the manuscript matters not at all.

There may be good reasons for using monospaced fonts in book-length manuscripts, such as the editor's (or agent's) familiarity and comfort with the font. My point is just that the cast-off is really not one of those reasons at book length, especially if there are any nontextual elements involved. Follow the guidelines regardless of whether they make sense (to you or anyone else), though!

01-12-2006, 10:11 PM
My vote is 2 spaces. After a writer friend told me that he only uses 1 space, I tried it out on my own manuscript, and it just didn't look right -- made the text appear cluttered and possibly more difficult to read.

From what I hear, 2 spaces is the more widely accepted way to go.