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Microsoft Word now flags double spaces after a period as errors (theverge.com)
302 points by blondin 12 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 259 comments

We debated this in 1993 on the www-talk mailing list [1]. Terry Allen (an editor at O'Reilly) wanted rendered HTML documents to follow Tex conventions with extra space after a period. Marc Andreessen (still at NCSA in 1993) pointed out browser developers couldn’t do the syntactic analysis required to distinguish the end of sentences from inter-sentence periods. Guido van Rossum (working on Python version 1.0 at the time) weighed in on the whitespace issue and complained “it’s mostly propaganda by Knuth and Kernighan (TeX and troff) that makes people want this.” We ended up with browsers collapsing spaces between sentences for the web. Most style guides [2] seem to have settled the issue in favor of a single space but debate rages, eh?

[1] http://1997.webhistory.org/www.lists/www-talk.1993q3/index.h...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentence_spacing_in_language_a...

A-ha! Another consequential web outcome decided in Urbana-Champaign. As an engineer and a writer, I have monitored this debate for some time. Editors of mine have usually lobbied for two spaces, while engineers I’ve worked with say, simply and reasonably, browsers reading HTML deprecate the extra space, so why bother? Now we know why. Thank you for the fascinating inside story. The traditionalist in me, however, the part that still enjoys a paper newspaper, will always prefer the luxuriousness of the double space.

One of the comments there concisely summarizes history better than modern typographers do:

> I think most books don't do this any more [have wider spaces between sentences]. Newspapers certainly don't. It's way too much trouble escaping out all the abbreviations.

If you need wider spaces between sentences you also don't want them indiscriminately after every period, so you need to exercise more care and indicate them differently in the input markup. For example, using two spaces:

    This is a sentence.  This is another.  Dr. Smith wrote in Proc. Amer. Math. Soc. about NASA.  It was good.
Or in TeX, which makes the typical case easier by using the heuristic that a period after a lowercase letter ends a sentence, you need to indicate wherever this heuristic fails (you can also use ~ to prevent a line-break):

    This is a sentence. This is another. Dr.~Smith wrote in Proc.\ Amer.\ Math.\ Soc. about NASA\null. It was good.
Having to keep track of which periods are ends of sentences is a bit inconvenient in the general case, which explains why wider inter-sentence spacing was given up first in newspapers, then low-quality mass-publishing, then finally high-quality printing as well (almost). But typographers today (see my other comment) make it seem like this has always been the case and wider spaces was just a quirk from typewriters somehow!

Note: You should use nonbreaking spaces (the ~) in many places where they are often not used.


Wait, what's the \null for and shouldn't there be a \ after Soc.?

Yes there should be a \ after “Soc.” Proofreading the typeset output might have caught this error. :-)

The “\null” after “NASA” is to show an example where the heuristic fails in the other direction: the “.” after the uppercase letter won't be considered to end the sentence, so you need to either type `\hbox{NASA}.` or `NASA\null.` (where `\null` is an abbreviation for `\hbox{}` i.e. an empty box) or something like that — something so that the period doesn't immediately follow an uppercase letter.

I think `\relax` is a better no-op than `\null`, right?

While \relax is indeed a no-op “command”, that is precisely why it doesn't affect anything here. The way TeX works is that (roughly speaking), after expanding macros and acting on other commands (primitives) it encounters, it treats every character it encounters as another member of the current horizontal list (paragraph). Then it breaks this list into lines, etc. Whether you insert \relax or not, the horizontal list is the same: the uppercase A will be followed by the period. So you need something like \hbox{} or (equivalently) \null (something that actually gets into the horizontal list) between the “A” and the “.”.

So that's why that happened.

Typographically, I don't think you can compare the visual effect of an extra period in properly rendered right-justified text with the effect when it's buried in the usual ragged-right default on the web.

In the early 90s most monitors didn't have the resolution to handle full justification without making it look like crap.

In theory it would have been helpful if there had been enough foresight to consider the situtation >20 years later. Because those neat margins look really nice.

In practice full justification would have used significantly more memory and processor power and would have been much slower. So although it's a shame we ended up with ragged right as the default, it's only become practical to consider high quality implementations - not just budget hacks - of more polished formatting in the last few years or so.

Ragged right is not somehow inferior to full justified. It automatically creates rythm that keeps you engaged. There is reason most graphic profesionals prefer look of ragged right.

It's also pretty hard to have quality full justified text. To keep spaces consistent you need hyphenation and advanced typography algorythms like latex microtype package and paragraph composer like the one in Indesign. And it will still not be enough. You will need to have experienced human make adjustments - fix hyphenation and fiddle with settings. When you see full justified done well there is someone putting quite bit of effort so it looks well.

The reason it is so hard is that if you take somehow optimal length of 70 characters you will have only about 10 spaces on line add to that limit of 2-3 consecutive hyphenations at the end of lines and few longer words will get you to pretty tight spots. It's a balacne battle. Sure increase number of characters on line and then it will look even but long lines make things much harder to read and its the worst problem because you will not be able to catch next line.

Most often you will see justified text full of rivers or crazy big differences between space widths - both more distracting than ragged right. For some reason some people think its more grand and authorative but it is quite dogmatic view.

The main reason why it's used in books is that it saves space. On 400 page book it can make difference. But the publishers employ dedicated expert who does this work and goes page by page so everything is in order.

I don’t know. It sounds like you’re older and smarter than I, but whenever I see two spaces at the end of a sentence, I fix it to make it one space. It looks plain wrong to my brain

When you're reading a several hundred page technical report, those double spaced periods are really helpful for picking sentences out at a glance. You don't tend to read those in order from start to finish. There's a lot of jumping around, highlighting things, writing notes. Having sentences be easily visually distinguishable at a glance when scanning a page is fairly helpful.

It's kind of like trying to read tons of code with or without syntax highlighting.

Double spacing between paragraphs is surprisingly helpful with smudged text on physical paper. Many linguistic conventions seem arbitrary, but are really about redundancy.

Punctuation could have replaced spaces.just like capitalization of the first letter in a new sentence,it’s helpful to make things as obvious as possible. Is that period a typo or are those supposed to be different sentences?

It basically did, except the other way around: punctuation was originally used where we would use spaces now.


Two spaces is probably wrong, but for typesetting it generally looks better to have slightly bigger spaces at the end of sentences, and if you need to stretch space it generally works better to do so at the end of sentences.

And you would be right. There shouldn't be two spaces. It's some old convention from typewriter times. Nowdays space is not fixed width. It's fluid and it's job of the system (browser, graphic editor) to make it right width.

In fact first thing book designer / publisher will do when they get text from author is run it through cleanup script to fix all mistakes and inconsistencies and one of those will be double+ spaces.

We should have gone with 1.5 spaces as a compromise.

Despite it being called "double spacing", TeX's inter-sentence spacing is actually only about 1.25x the inter-word spacing (before justification stretching is applied, at least). The argument is really just over whether or not the space after a sentence should be wider than the space after a word, and not how much wider it should be if so.

Or a slanted space, like a mezuzah.

Only for Ashkenazim/Chasidim. Sephardi and Mizrahi hang them vertically. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ask-the-expert-slan...

  Why compromise when you can do both?   With three spaces everyone wins!

This doesn't paint python in a better light to me. Two spaces is not so that you render two spaces, it just made it easy to distinguish the end of a sentence. Calling it mostly propaganda just shows even then the python crowd got strings of the day wrong.

Is also why two line feeds indicates end of paragraph. Works way easier than requiring container markers. Disagree? Just look at in house Java projects to see how many screw up the doc thinking they did multiple paragraphs.

And yes, that is the same thing. Books do not have extra space between paragraphs. It is a stylistic choice, period.

How much of the book spacing is to save physical space? A fair number of larger / more expensive books that I have on hand, and nearly all non-fiction (especially technical) ones, do have additional space between paragraphs.

Potentially all the paperback novels I have within reach do not, though, agreed. They also have far smaller margins, tighter spaces between lines, and thinner paper.

Not sure that matters. My point was that it was a frugal markup. You don't do two spaces because you want more space, per se. You do it to signal a period at the end of a sentence.

Similarly, we don't ever start a paragraph with spaces. Very common to indent opening paragraphs, though. Why don't we space at the first sentence? Because we already have a clear marker for that.

To that end Word is correct to flag two spaces. In all views. Because it is a wysiwyg. You are not writing a markup, you are seeing the rendered target.

If people are double-spacing on a wysiwyg, doesn't that imply it's not frugal markup?

They are using markup where they shouldn't be. If, in word, I type italic text using stars, that just means I'm wrong in that context. Similarly, if I use escapes, such that I expect \n to add a new line, I'm just wrong. That doesn't make it less useful where it originated.

Edit: I amusingly had to try twice to get the italic text there. Double stars did not bold. I don't know how to escape the stars.

Word has never had markup though. Nor have most people ever written markup. Why would they be trying to write markup?

I would wager most folks that use word have never been the two space crowd. Especially not people that learn on word.

Just like most people that write on paper don't leave extra space after a sentence. We do indent paragraphs commonly. At least, if you are writing somewhere you want it indented, it is incumbent on you to do so. :)

Wow, that webhistory mailing list archive is quite the treasure trove...

I got to thinking more about this and posted an essay to my blog [1]. Looking back, I wonder if browser developers could have applied the algorithms that Tex uses and perhaps web pages would look slightly more elegant. We take for granted the world around us. Web browsers work a certain way; web pages display the same space between sentences as between words. We forget that many things we take for granted are the product of a social process (or “social practice” as Mao Tse-tung famously said). In this case, something you probably took for granted (and probably never even thought about), was the product of a brief discussion in the summer of 1993 among developers who each had their own beliefs about what was right and good. Reading the archives of the www-talk mailing list reveals how part of our world came to be.

[1] https://danielkehoe.com/posts/personal-history-punctuating-t...

The very next comment thread is about unreasonable load that web crawlers create. http://1997.webhistory.org/www.lists/www-talk.1993q3/0001.ht...

Great proposal from Nathan Torkington that search engines be called "Josie and the Pussycats". Somehow Larry and Sergey didn't get that memo.

Thank you for this! I've been complaining for a long time this is why it happened - browsers eat white space.

Another piece of evidence in favor of "the debate rages" (though IMO more in favor of double-spacing): if typographers were even slightly unified in this, you'd see period-double-space ligatures that render as period-single-space.

Instead, I'm not aware of any common fonts that do this.

I'm not sure extra space after a period is a convention in TeX, meaning it is added only when required by aligning text, not after every period.

Not sure if you mean if it's convention to put an extra space in the source input or the rendered output, but 'extra space' (as opposed "an extra space character") is definitely rendered in the output.

AFAIK it is indeed a convention in TeX, and LaTeX. See https://tex.stackexchange.com/tags/frenchspacing/info

Since someone must, I’ll go ahead and propose we instead use a single tab after periods if it’s the end of a sentence. :)

See https://web.archive.org/web/20171218122807/http://www.heracl... for a great article on the history of wider spaces between sentences — how there were two traditions of typography and things started to shift towards equal spaces in the 1930s–1960s (i.e. inter-sentence space being the same as the inter-word space). I'm even holding on my lap right now a book published in 1957 by a reputed publisher (Parkinson's Law — Riverside Press / Houghton Mifflin, 24th printing) that uses wider spaces between sentences. As do of course all of Knuth's books (e.g. TAOCP Volume 4A from 2011).

For some reason, the other typographical tradition (which I suspect owes its ascendancy to William Morris in some way) is dominant today (which is fine), but the way they've nearly completely rewritten history (e.g. blaming “double” spaces on typewriters) is mystifying.

The current version of the relevant Wikipedia article is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=History_of_senten...

I don't strictly oppose this typographical tradition; my native tongue has many widths of spaces (in particular between a measurement and the unit there should be a slightly narrower space) and I'm used to it.

What I dislike strongly is this idea that one should alter the source manuscript to emulate these typographical conventions. It makes no sense to replace a wider sentence space with two regular spaces. They are in no way equivalent!

> It makes no sense to replace a wider sentence space with two regular spaces.

Using a double space is a simple way of telling the computer that you want a wider space, because otherwise it can't tell that you mean the end of a sentence.

Similar to the spacing convention, we use two hyphens to signify an en dash and three for an em dash.

Three hyphens is a lot. I would have said it was more common to just use one hyphen for what should properly be an en-dash (which most people don't use) and two hyphens for an em-dash with or without spaces to separate from the surrounding words.

> we use two hyphens to signify an en dash

That depends on whether this functions as a poor man's input method (e.g. like in LibreOffice Writer), or is to be mentally applied by the reader.

The former is a very agreeable solution, the latter provokes flaming.

I can't recall ever seeing three hyphens used to signify an em dash in a document published on the net. (I added the word "published" to account for the possibility of the existence of a markup language I am unaware of that employs your three-hyphen convention.) I am fastidious enough about usage that I probably would've noticed and remembered.

In my experience, its always two hyphens (or space, hyphen, hyphen, space).

LaTeX converts three hyphens into an em-dash.

Interesting thing is, living in Europe, AFAIR I never heard about "use two spaces" rule until now (even if in a long monospace plaintext, I might have subconsciously used it sometimes to disambiguate).

If I saw that in a Word document, however, I would have thought the author was a technically-illiterate person who puts extra spaces around commas, quotes, parentheses etc. or uses 10 spaces instead of 1 tab for indentation.


Talking typography trivia: in French language, it's mandatory to put a space before "double-characters" like : ; ? ! - the side effect is that it often allows to easily recognize a French person online even if they write in English.

Most people: Hello! How are you?

French people : Hello ! How are you ?

In German this is called Plenken [1] and if you're writing spaces before such double-characters, many people will think that you're not the smartest person. Angry comments under news articles often using this. Something this is called "Deppenleerzeichen" (idiot's space), but this is yet another thing in the German language [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plenken [2] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leerzeichen_in_Komposita

In TeX or LaTeX the command to turn the extra space after the period on and off is called \frenchspacing. I remember this because the proof reader of my theses asked me why I had so inconsistent spacing between the sentences and told me that I should stick with a single space. I remember that I had little time to figure it out and that I was very happy when I found that the \frenchspacing command would do it.

I don't remember if \frenchspacing means extra space or no extra space though. Also don't remember if it is a TeX or LaTeX command, and therefore if Knuth called the option like that or if it is Lamport's invention.

\frenchspacing = single spacing

\nonfrenchspacing = double spacing (default)

They are both TeX commands.

So the French don't like too much space after punctuation but are keen on space before it. Typography is a weird thing.

While we're on the topic of typographical prejudice, I confess that if I see a Microsoft Word document at all, I tend to assume the author is not so technically literate.

The intersection of "people I've seen use Word" and "people who know how to write a program" is extremely small.

Are all the technical people you know eccentric Richard Stallman types? There’s definitely a subdemographic out there that would never touch Word, but out in the real world everyone (technical or not) uses word processors (almost always MS Word) to produce low effort documents.

Wow, what industry do you work in and for how long?

Reasons for technical people to use word:

1. A non technical person may need to edit or even just comment on the document at some point

2. It's stupid, but in a lot situations people are conditioned to take an email with the real content attached in a word doc more seriously than a plain email. You could use a PDF to the same effect but see point 1.

3. Actually imo it's the best tool for the job it's designed for. Markup/markdown and adobe have their places but not in everyday business writing. Or even scientific, it beats latex for journal papers imo (see point 1).

> Wow, what industry do you work in and for how long?

I don't know about the OP, but in the mathematics community you need to have a lot of confidence on yourself to write a paper in Word. It would be a much worse offense than using comic-sans, and it would likely be interpreted as a flamboyant deviation and unnecessary attention whoring.


I have once written for a journal that insisted on latex but can't say I found it a good way to work (and that's after plenty of experience with it including a phd thesis). I can see how it might be better for math heavy writing, especially 10 years ago, but most of the basic latex math commands work in word now anyway.

If that field frowns on word so much it should just insist on latex for paper submissions to save anyone the embarrassment, but people enjoy being dicks I guess.

A friend of mine is a physics PhD. Most journals require to use their exact LaTeX settings for every little detail in order to have an article published.

Which means quite a lot of menial work to redo the article each time you apply, get refused, and want to send to another journal.

Yeah, that's daft. Most journals I use now have a "your paper your way" policy for initial submissions and only require conforming to format requirements when it's near acceptance. I'm quite happy to use their latex template at that stage particularly if the journal is open access and not charging exorbitant fees.

> Which means quite a lot of menial work to redo the article each time you apply, get refused, and want to send to another journal.

What kind of menial work do you mean? Isn't that just a matter of changing the class of your document? Why would you need to change the text of the article itself?

I'm not GP but some journals have formatting requirements such as specifying which sections (e.g. introduction, background, methods, results, discussion) you must have and in what order. Also relative size of these e.g. how much background is expected? Word/page length limits both for the abstract and complete article. Nit picks like whether you refer to Figure 1 or fig. 1 in the text (and whether it's capitalized if not at sentence start). Usually if you reformat a bibliography to a different referencing style, even automatically, it needs checking as the database fields will have been used in different ways and often errors creep in. Different wording for competing interests and author contributions statements and maybe a different position for the former (in the main manuscript / a separate file). The list goes on...

Not to mention often the latex style (or word template) given often directly contradicts the author instructions page on the website.

Beyond LibreOffice, or the privacy-violating Google Docs, can I legitimately ask what word editing software you would suggest as an alternative?

I’ve never before head of the use of Microsoft Word as anything but professional.

I’m a senior iOS dev, I’ve been in iOS, web development, and more recently AR/VR, I’ve never used anything but, I’ve never been instructed to use anything but, and I’ve also had many a job where it was a requirement.

I think he is academic and he means something like LaTeX.

There is very little choice for nonprogrammers.

Word is not bad it's just editor. In skilled hands its fine. Actually the biggest typographic problems people make are not really because of Word but because default office paper sizes A4/Letter are too wide for one column. For optimal 60-70 characters per line you either need giant font size or two columns so they put people into quite difficult situation. Why this happened? Typewriters use monospaced fonts that are much wider and we switched to proportional typefaces but paper size stayed.

I learned to type when I was a kid (in Flanders), around the year 1985 or so (on a purely mechanical typewriter) and we learned to type two spaces after a period. Also I never learned to put a space before colons etc. I feel like I know the rule is to not do that, but I'm not sure where, if ever, I learned that rule.

In Belgium we use the same AZERTY keyboard layout with France (largely) but apparently the typographical rules vary widely.

I remember the two space rule driving me crazy when I used GNU typing tutor for learning touch typing. I ended up modifying the tutorial files to get rid of them.

I'm French Canadian and I usually avoid the space before those characters because they have a tendency to wrap on a new line by themselves. You are supposed to use non breaking spaces but most tools won't do it automatically, and they are not trivial to type.

IIRC alt-space inserts a NBSP utf8 character on macOS and Linux basically anywhere. It’s been too long since I used Windows but I recall something like that working (maybe only in some select software though).

Now the visual feedback though... It usually appears as a regular space.

> ... Linux basically anywhere.

Probably not in KDE, as that (by default) has alt-space bring up the Plasma "Search Bar".

I think you mean « French people : ... » I find the extra space much more common with the colon than with exclamation or question marks.

Ha, you got me - I was in non-French thinking mode until the colon - edited :)

When I did my Pitman typing qualifications in the UK in the late 90s, 2 spaces was mandatory. That is where I learnt it from, and still keep doing it to this day as muscle memory.

A lot of French people are aware of the difference when they write in English though.

I only just worked out that the two spaces I see in text that I format must invariably come from Word docs exported as text. I am from the eight bit era so I intuitively save bytes where I can.

Not only. Some of us just always type like that. In my case, I almost never use Word, so this change is not going to affect me.

First time I hear of it too, and that could explain how the "dot shortcut" (two spaces transforms into a dot followed by space) made it into the iPhone.

Not just French. I see it a lot from other non-native-english speaking cultures.

This may not seem like a big deal, but consider the effect that such an influential source of “correctness” can have on the general sense of what is correct.

Spell checkers like Word’s are responsible for the “z” in British English being demonised. Once upon a time, according to linguist Gretchen McCullen, it was common in British English to use both z and s. But somewhere along the line, automated spell checkers categorised one spelling as British and categorized the other as American, and it created a whole new hobby for many British people who fancied themselves the guardians of the English language, courageously pointing out whenever someone used the filthy, “dumbed down” version from across the Atlantic. We have these brave volunteers to thank for defending the purity of the famously consistent English language, and for these people we have spell checkers to thank.

Thanks a lot, spell checkers!

This sort of thing long pre-dates spell checkers, as other have pointed out. Here's an older example for you. The word "alright" existed fairly quietly and unobtrusively in the English language for decades, as a formation similar to "altogether" and "always", until Fowler and other authorities got hold of it after World War 1 and demonized it.

* http://jdebp.uk./FGA/all-right-variants.html

Huh, didn’t know “alright” wasn’t universally hunky-dory. In Australian English it’s a common word and that’s how it’s spelled, and I believe “all right” would be considered actively wrong.

FWIW, the Oxford English Dictionary lists it as all right; note that it is a distinct entry from an earlier (now obsolete) word alright meaning "exactly, just".

Regarding the spelling, though, it notes:

> The form alright is frequent, although more widespread in non-literary printed sources (e.g. newspapers and journals) than in literary texts. Compare the standard spellings of already (adj. and adv.), altogether (adj., n., and adv.), always (adv). Although these analogues exist, the form is strongly criticized in the vast majority of usage guides, but without cogent reasons.

I suspect that while all right is generally regarded as the more "correct" form, alright will eventually be accepted as a valid alternative in modern usage, though traditionalists will be fighting a rearguard action for some years yet.

I always considered “all right” to be incorrect. Interesting.

I don't think that's right, or at least maybe not for the colonies.

I grew up in New Zealand and my mother was very insistent that I spelled and spoke "Proper English", rather than American English. This was before Microsoft Word was popular and the source of truth for the English language, especially for my tech-illiterate mother. She also didn't like me using slang, especially the Kiwi tendency to say "sweet as" and put "aye" on the end of sentences.

Maybe it's a colonial hangover, trying to hold on to the British identity, or maybe it's because she had a less privileged upbringing and saw "Proper English" as a sign of higher status.

My experience in Australia was similar: always the ’s’ for Australian/British English, with the ‘z’ for American English. Well before spellcheckers, save for the teacher or parent who would spell-check your work and catch every organization and specialized, and correct your alphabet song to finish with ‘zed’ and never ‘zee’. :)

I think it is a colonial hangover.

It's the same in former British colonies in the Caribbean. We're thought "Proper English" in school and the American spellings are considered wrong. Local dialects are frowned upon in professional settings and writing.

I can confirm that South African education was the same as well, before word processors.

As a native U.K. person that went to school in the seventies (ie long before spell checkers), I can assure you that British English used S rather than Z in the kind of words you are talking about.

Part of the point being made was that British English did not. People put about the myth that this was a British/American thing, when it really was not. It's a French/Greek thing. British English incorporates both.


You might want to "but, but" reply to someone who blamed it on spellchecks, then. (-:

It's not a confusion, moreover. It's two alternative forms, one with its roots in the French influence on the language, one with its roots in the Greek. British English incorporates both, as I said.

But the confusion has been around a lot longer than spellchecks have been in common use.

-ize Vs -ize was a plot point in a 1987 episode of Inspector Morse: https://jeremybutterfield.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/ise-or-iz...

> -ize Vs -ize was a plot point

Amusingly, I suspect autocorrect may have destroyed your point here!

According to the OED and paraphrased from the 1989 edition — arguably before spellcheckers were widespread; the use of -ize, for instance, is dependant on the root of the word. Words that stem from Greek, with the transitive sense of ‘make or conform to, or treat in the way of, the thing expressed by the derivation’, or ‘to act some person or character, do or follow some practice’. Words formed (in French or English) on Latin adjectives and nouns (esp. on derivative adjectives in -al, -ar, -an, etc.), mostly with the transitive sense. Words from later sources. Words formed on ethnic adjectives, and the like, chiefly transitive but sometimes intransitive. Words formed on names of persons, sometimes with the intransitive Greek sense of ‘to act like, or in accordance with’. From names of substances, chemical and other; in the transitive sense of ‘to charge, impregnate, treat, affect, or influence with’.

I really wish that there were spell checkers that offered en-GB-oxendict.

GNU Aspell has an en_GB-ize-w_accents dictionary, which I think is what's needed. The source seems to be here: http://wordlist.aspell.net/

It's the UN's official version of English [1], and my employer's, and it's widely used in scientific publications.

I'd like to use it in Firefox, but the British dictionary extension[2] accepts both versions. I have "feces colored airplane modeling" marked as misspellings, and "digitized aeroplane signalling" accepted, but "digitised" is also accepted by this dictionary.

[1] http://dd.dgacm.org/editorialmanual/ed-guidelines/style/spel...

[2] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/addon/british-engli...

Thank you for that. Would you happen to know if Hunspell (I think that this is what firefox uses at least on linux) has something similar or if I can use this dictionary with it?

related story, Brits used to call Soccer Soccer and not Football >> https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/wh...

> New Zealand's largest newspaper is deeply conflicted. With the World Cup underway in Brazil, should The New Zealand Herald refer to the "global round-ball game" as "soccer" or "football"? The question has been put to readers, and the readers have spoken. It's "football"—by a wide margin.

Interestingly, if you asked Australians, it would be "soccer" by a wide margin.

I remember a typing teacher being very serious about two spaces after the dot[1]. He was also serious about the letter O being an acceptable substitute for a zero "0". Fortunately both of these rules are now firmly in the past along with witch burning. This is progress.

[1] yeah, I could call it a period or a full stop. But its also a dot. Variety is the spice of life as is properly finishing your

Yes, I remember double-spaces between sentences from "Typing" class in Junior High School (you know, before they even offered anything called "Computer Science").

Type-set lead blocks allowed for variable spacing, typewriters were more limited. When I see double-spaces now (in email, for example) I tend to draw conclusions about the sender's age.

> He was also serious about the letter O being an acceptable substitute for a zero "0".

Whoa, never heard that one. Did that have any major traction at some point? What was the point?

Some older typewriters had no 1 or 0 keys: https://www.reddit.com/r/mildlyinteresting/comments/3huau8/t...

The irony was that all the typewriter keyboards we were using had separate keys.

Can confirm. Also learned that in 1988 in my typing class. Also learned lower case l instead of a 1. It was for typing speed so you didn't have to reach for the top row.

Features of the typewriter I used in the 1970s as a kid (which was old even then):

(1) Did not have a "0" key. Use capital letter "O".

(2) Did not have a "1" key. Use lowercase letter "l".

(3) Did not have a "!" key. Type ".", then backspace, then type "'".

The typeface was designed to make this work well. The "l" looked close enough to a "1". The dimensions of "." and "'" were such that they fit together, and "'" did not have any curve to it that would look out of place on an exclamation mark.

Here's a photo of the exact same model: https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/wUcAAOSwmftc8s45/s-l1600.jpg

Other features, while I'm at it:

(4) Had a cent sign in addition to dollar sign. This was nice because the symbol was used a lot in real life.

(5) Had a key to type 1/4 and 1/2.

(6) No backslash, of course. Which explains why old people mix this up so often. They aren't accustomed to there being two different ones they need to keep straight.

(7) That LOCK key above SHIFT physically locks the SHIFT key in the down position. I'm not sure what you'd call the mechanism, but it's something like a pawl. SHIFT would normally spring back up, but this blocks it from doing that. You push SHIFT down further to release it.

(8) You can load the typewriter with a ribbon that has red and black ink. (You can see red in the photo above.) There's a lever toward the right that controls this.

(9) There is no enter or carriage return key, of course. The whole carriage (top part that holds the paper) moves side to side as you type. The power comes from being spring loaded. When you want a new line, you grab that shiny lever at the top left and yank the whole carriage to the right. So you are returning the carriage to the start of the line.

(10) Note the TAB SET, TAB CLEAR, and TABULAR buttons. These work like a tab key on computer. You move to some column, push TAB SET, and it remembers that position mechanically. When you hit TABULAR, it moves to that position. Since the carriage is spring-loaded, this is quite lively. The carriage is metal and heavy (a few pounds?), and when you press TABULAR, it gets moving pretty good, and it slams pretty hard into the tab stop.

(11) The platen is the roller that the paper wraps around. You can see a knob on the left and the right that can be used to turn the platen. It turns in steps corresponding to the height of one line. But the button centered in the left knob lets you release that and turn it continuously. So it's kind of an snap to grid function that you can turn off and on. You can use this for typing superscripts and subscripts or other weird effects.

Now if only C/C++ could join them. :3

Unsubstantiated false equivalence.

One thing that's nice about being a programmer is that I haven't thought about any mechanics of text formatting for many years. When I save a file, it just gets reformatted according to rules that were set up exactly once. I have no idea whether or not I use spaces or tabs, or whether there are semicolons at the end of lines, or whether it's "} else {" or "}\nelse {".

It makes me sad that the least technical users have to use the most primitive software tooling. Something that programmers never think about (because they are best equipped to program their own programming tools) is apparently something that results in national studies and extremely snide articles because nobody will make good tools for them that end the problem once and for all.

Being a programmer won't save you from this particular style war. If there's a comment in your code with a sentence that begins with a double space, your code formatter probably won't flag or remove it in the same way that MS Word will. And it's likely shown in a monospace font, which makes it more noticeable.

How many spaces do people put after a full stop in comments in their code?

I go with one, but Vim's J and gq commands annoyingly insert two spaces when joining sentences from separate lines. I'd love it if someone could tell me how to fix this.

Edit: found it, the command is "set nojoinspaces"

Broadly speaking, internal consistency is the best & most important style. So just follow the convention of the codebase you are working in (ideally with a code formatter to help)

I go for two, but that's only because it is now in my muscle memory to apply two spaces after a full stop. This came about when I was doing a typing certificate in the UK in the late 90s and I've continued to do it ever since.

It is even more amusing in Java. Many folks essentially try to do markdown, not realizing that they are probably writing one giant paragraph.

> I have no idea [...] whether it's "} else {" or "}\nelse {".

You never read your own code?

Format to personal style on open. Format to project style on save. The project style is then consistent, but irrelevant.

This sounds good and might work for programmers who are working in well-established languages with mature tooling.

For me, I’m opening so many kinds of text files, I’d need a parade of parsers and pretty-printers to pull it off. I can’t see it being a realistic option in the near term.

Same here. In a given week, I’ve opened files across 6 different {programming} languages

I have tried this but the formater in Eclipse messes up too many edgecases or nicely column aligned struct definitions to make it work for me.

You have your text editor set up to use a formatter which handles the number of spaces after periods, in source code comments and plain text files? How?

This isn't the same kind of text formatting as that though.

That's pretty obnoxious. I do two spaces out of habit, and would prefer it just removed them quietly rather than forcing me to relearn. (which is what HTML does, effectively.... it displays it the same if you use two spaces)

Heck no, never knuckle under and allow the computer to take over. It's there to serve you.

Yeah I was forced to do this as a child when writing typed stuff in school and wish I hadn’t, hopefully won’t be too hard to relearn.

We were also forced to have perfect MLA citations in high school where the librarian had to sign off on it and you had to go rewrite it for any arbitrary little thing - what a monumental waste of time. They probably still make the students do that.

When I was in school they still had us using MLA but there were sites you could post any URL or book title and it would generate the citation for you.

Given the seeming inability of many people to gauge the voracity of primary sources, I'm not so sure the teachers were wrong in this case. I know I liked reading wikipedia and copying the sources from there, but there's something to be said for teaching exactly how unreliable a source is based on the inability to properly cite it.

That software didn’t work for us at the time because we had to follow some document provided by the school and what software did exist was often slightly different in the exact placement of punctuation.

I think that focus was a waste - when you really need to do that in graduate school it’s not hard to figure out and you can use software to do it.

They also made us put inline citations in the writing itself (you couldn’t even say the year someone was born without citing the source).

Of course the teachers didn’t actually look at the source and discuss its quality (which may have been useful) - they instead obsessed over minutia of where exactly a space or period is required in the citation and if it’s a periodical or website.

It's a setting in the grammar checker that has always been there. Just disable it again.


It's easy to forget that computers exist to serve humans, and not the other way around.

I use LyX (https://www.lyx.org/) which just silently ignores the second space (acting as if you hadn't pressed the key). I think this would be a better way for Word to do it than flagging it as an error.

The problem is that Word is a WYSIWYG editor, so it can’t ignore second spaces. It must affect the layout.

(FWIW, I think WYSIWYG editors are a bad hack and should be avoided wherever possible. Either use a semantic editor or a real page layout program.)

I don't think that's what WYSIWYG means. It simply means the display onscreen is what will be printed (or otherwise what others will see)

I think the GP is distinguishing between an ignored space and an ignored press of the space bar. The GGP was saying that in Lyx, the extra space in the source doesn't show up in there rendered document.

I think the GP was saying that a WYSIWYG editor can't ignore a space. I think the GP is saying a WYSIWYG editor could ignore a keypress and not insert the space, but if it puts a space in the source... it has to be in the rendered output, as there's little to no distinction between source and rendered output in a WYSIWYG editors.

Now, I think there's some middle ground, where a WYSIWYG editor could insert a zero-width space for the second space bar press, but I think that would be very confusing for most users and of very little practical benefit, even for power users.

if you were going to do that, i think you should render two half width spaces rather than a full width and a zero width, so the cursor still moves naturally.

Excellent suggestion. How could I have forgotten about half-width spaces?

This would only work when editing, not when typing it out the first time.

Sure, the first space would be full width, the second would be half width but would also cause the one before it to become half width. You wouldn't really see that there were half width spaces until you edit, but they are there as soon as typed.

I've started using Typora [1] recently. It's the best of both worlds.

[1] https://typora.io

I try to explain to people that punctuation like "'" and "." is overloaded, and the real point of the second space is to disambiuguate.

They just don't get it, and perhaps won't understand the problem until it kicks them in the shin.

The appropriate counterattack might be to introduce some coding and just show how gnarly sentences are to process as a result.

Please can you give an example? That would make your point easier to understand

Is the dot a period at the end of a sentence? In that case, there should be an m-space following the period, and line breaks are allowed after the period. Is the dot an abbreviation of an honorific (e.g. Mr. So-and-so)? In that case, there should only be an n-space, and line breaks between the honorific and the name should be forbidden. Is the dot an abbreviation of a unit (e.g. 3 lb.)? In that case, the period may or may not also indicate the end of a sentence, and should have an m-space or n-space depending on which it is.

While I think the typesetting software should be smart enough to distinguish these cases on its own, like LaTeX does, the parent's point is that the user can add extra information in the form of double spacing to indicate what length of space is appropriate.

Why have the period perform double duty?

I've seen sentences like "The machine can lift a maximum of 3 lbs.."

Why would you treat "3 lbs." as anything other than a regular word?

It's not a matter of choosing what the period does. It's a matter of codifying what it already does. Certainly, you can treat "3 lbs." as a regular word. That is another use case for a period, which also needs to be handled. That also means that a period can either appear inside a word, or between words.

The long story is that a period can mean many, many different things.

Quotation marks are particularly overloaded (and arguably overused). They can mean:

- A literal quote from somebody

- A way to indicate so-called, a term of art, etc.

- Scare quotes

- Certain titles, e.g. TV episodes

Especially the overloaded ".". Apart from usage as a decimal point and elipsis, where it's obvious, what are the overloaded cases?

Abbreviations in the middle of a sentence (When he was talking with Mr. St. Cyr, he saw a bird. Then...”)

Except that in the tradition current when I was growing up neither Mr nor St require a dot because they both include the last letter of the word. The dot is meant to indicate that letters following it have been omitted.

This is a key punctuation difference between North American and UK English. In NA, we use the dot here, but not in the UK. Actually, I’ve started to adopt the UK convention, because I think it looks neater.

Meanwhile, the house style at the NYT is to use periods between each letter of an acronym in certain cases, e.g. W.H.O., D.O.D, and U.N., but not NASA for some reason.

I've had to occasionally append to existing texts that use the period between each letter style, and I have to say, it's incredibly annoying to physically type.

In regard to the NYT style: that’s because WHO, DOD, and UN are not in fact acronyms, while NASA is. So it’s entirely consistent.

"..." shouldn't be used for ellipses; the spacing is bad. That's why we have the single "…". (Maybe we need code points for "SENTENCE-ENDING PERIOD" and "NON-SENTENCE-ENDING PERIOD"?)


Two spaces are the only civilized option, and I hope the world's numerous, two-space-loving lawyers use their now abundant spare time to lay into MSFT about this.

I believe the software should add wide spaces after periods correctly, and not the user. Two reasons: first, two spaces is too big a separation between sentences. Second, it's really hard to maintain consistency (or ensure that there's consistency) in the use of double spacing without the help of software. It's easy to miss when reviewing.

Let the software do this menial task. That's what computers are for, aren't they?

A wide space after a period is only sensible when the period ends a sentence.

It would seem sensible to me that a word processor should treat a double-space as a hint that the preceding period ended a sentence, and a single-space as a (weaker) hint that it did not.

As far as the software is able to do this correctly ... it doesn't.

(Other comments already cover the rest that I would have said.) :-)


If this prohibition really takes hold, I will start limiting all of my paragraphs to one sentence.

Who's with me?

"If you’re still [wanting to use double-spaces], you will be able to ignore the suggestion. The Editor feature in Word allows users to ignore the suggestion once, make the change to one space, or turn off the writing-style suggestion."

On the one hand, it's reasonable to assume that it would be a configurable option.

On the other hand, I feel like having a title like that doesn't suggest it's an option/configuration. ("Word now flags double spaces after a period as an error" makes it sound like it's an error to use double spaces after a period).

"What should the default configuration be?" is an entirely different question to the flamebait "which one is correct, single or double" (especially given that there seem to be a number of established uses of both).

People have strong opinions on either side of this issue. I grew up with two spaces so anything else doesn't look correct. I did however get past indented spacing on paragraphs pretty quickly and that's mostly gone away.

Thankfully book publishers still use them so they're not going away any time soon. Sure hope that Word has a way of toggling it off.

As far as I’m aware book publishers ask authors who are using word processors to use a single space.

The whole debate over one space vs. two is just stupid. TeX got it right 40 years ago, recognising that it's no longer necessary to constrain ourselves to a integral number of space characters (a holdover from the typewriter era), but instead to use what it calls "glue" as separators between characters, words, and sentences.

Glue between words is given a higher weighting than that between characters. Glue between sentences is given a higher weighting than between words. So you end up with sentences being separated from each other by more whitespace than words. The exact amount will vary, as the Knuth-Plass line breaking algorithm [1] tries to find the most aesthetically pleasing set of places to break lines.

Arguing for one space or two spaces misses the point.

[1] http://www.eprg.org/G53DOC/pdfs/knuth-plass-breaking.pdf

Minor quibble: having a non-integral “number” of spaces was not a TeX innovation; Knuth was just reproducing standard practice of fine typography. Using variable-width separators (TeX “glue”) is exactly how human typesetters did it for centuries. So it's not quite the right perspective to consider anything “a holdover from the typewriter era”, because that had never been typographical practice in the first place — in fact the typewriter practice approximated fine typography (rounding up the larger inter-sentence space to 2), rather than the other way around (see my top-level comment below/above).

In fact, with TeX's standard settings, the inter-sentence space has the same natural width as the inter-word space; it's just that when justifying paragraphs it stretches more (3x) and shrinks less (0.33x) than the inter-word space — the net effect is that inter-sentence spaces are (usually) subtly larger.

> with TeX's standard settings, the inter-sentence space has the same natural width as the inter-word space

That's not quite accurate; the inter-sentence space does have a slightly larger natural width as well as more stretchability. It's right there in Chapter 12 of The TeXbook:

> "Plain TeX puts extra space at the end of a sentence; furthermore, it automatically increases the stretchability (and decreases the shrinkability) after punctuation marks."

Specifically, in the default cmr10 font, a normal inter-word space is 3.33333pt, and an end-of-sentence space has an additional 1.11111pt (before any stretch or shrink is applied).

Oh oops, sorry about that, thanks for the correction — was doing something custom recently, and got myself confused. So just for completeness: at the default settings, for cmr10 (a 10pt font),

• inter-word space has natural width 3.33333pt, stretchability 1.66666, shrinkability 1.11111.

• inter-sentence space has natural width 4.44444pt, stretchability 4.99997, shrinkability 0.37036.

So the net-effect is that, for example:

• for a line set at natural width: inter-word space is 3.33333pt and inter-sentence space is 4.44444pt (so it's 33% larger)

• for a loose line, stretched by ∛2 (badness 200, the maximum without complaining with the default setting of \tolerance): inter-word space is 5.43319pt, inter-sentence space is 10.7440pt (so it's 97% larger)

• for a tight line, shrunk by ∛2 (badness 200, the maximum without complaining with the default setting of \tolerance): inter-word space is 1.93342pt, inter-sentence space is 3.97782pt (so it's 106% larger)

So only for very loose or tight lines does the inter-sentence space get close to "two spaces".

Good points, thanks for clarifying this.

We had a really long period of time where printed material was produced by professional typesetters, followed by a much shorter period where people started producing documents using typewriters and computers with software that worked with fixed-width characters. Then with with TeX, proportionally spaced fonts, and the desktop publishing revolution we got that ability back.

For some reason there are a lot of people thinking in terms of typewriters and 1980s-era word processors when talking about sentence spacing, which seems quite odd.

So I think it doesn't quite miss the point. the point is that you want one ASCII space after a period and then you want the layout algorithm to do something intelligent (like make it as wide as two spaces or 1.5 spaces). This is why "1 space" is correct and two spaces conflates different layers of document creation (the textual information to display and how it is laid out).

I think two spaces makes more sense as an input mechanism, although the ship has sailed so it's no longer possible.

That way the document generator can tell the difference between periods that are inside sentences, and those which end sentences.

When using one space everywhere in the input, the document generator has to guess, and will sometimes guess wrong.

That's why HTML doesn't, and can't, do that kind of intelligent layout. End of sentence wide spaces in the middle of sentences looks awful.

I mean arguably then we would want a totally different character for end of sentence and not two spaces in a row. I think modern tools are smart enough to properly space "Mr. Foo" v."I was sad. John was happy." and if not you can always manually fix the spacing edge cases yourself without modifying the text.

When I’m writing HTML or TeX, my practice is to use a carriage return after sentences. That makes it easier to reorder them when I do a revision pass.

> This is why "1 space" is correct and two spaces conflates different layers of document creation (the textual information to display and how it is laid out)

The problem is that I know of exactly zero programs other than TeX and the descendants thereof that are able to reliably distinguish between word-spaces and sentence-spaces without being explicitly told to do so (e.g. with double-spaces), and even then.

There are indeed different space characters in Unicode, and if Word wanted to do this right it would autocorrect <space><space> to, say, <en-space> or <em-space> (the way it already does for quotes, much to the chagrin of people including code snippets in Word documents).

So it's basically the great tabs vs spaces debate again

Is it able to determine the end of sentences correctly all the time? If not, there needs to be some means for humans to indicate the same, and typing two spaces is a reasonable one.

I disable even autocapitalization wherever allowed as the systems just don't get it right. Instead of me trying to learn to correct when the system would get it wrong, I rather find it easier to just habitually do it correct by myself.

Quite, typograpy does not have spaces it has space.

I grew up putting two spaces after a period. A few years ago, after reading an article arguing for one space, I decided to try single spaces, as open-mindedly as possible. However, after a few days I ended up going back to the double space, since the single space just looked plain ugly to me. To me single spaces make all sentences look like run-on sentences, at least visually.

On a different, though my side lost this religious debate, I have higher hopes for the eventual demise of all caps (which always look ugly to me, even in document or section titles.)


Personally, this to me (a digital immigrant from the EU), is like shouting at someone. Apologies for the rudeness.

I wonder if this is universal among people who migrated to the digital world in the 90s?

Is there a universal way of vocalizing net-lingo? Or how does this evolve over generations (do digital natives speak the same lingo that we learned?)

I found these two thoughtful Wikipedia articles give an interesting background. I didn't know Vi and Emacs used to recognise double spacing as an end-of-sentence navigation.



It's still a configurable in Emacs. In particular, it's controlled by the sentence-end-double-space variable, which on my Emacs (27, built a little over a year ago) was still set to true by default, i.e. considering sentences to be separated by double spaces. I have a line in my config that disables this, as I'm used to the single-space tradition.

in vim if you run gqip to reflow a paragraph (or gq generally to reflow some area based on a motion), if the old layout has a fullstop at the end of a line, the new layout will have a double space after it

(setq sentence-end-double-space t)

Well then I guess that's another reason I won't use Word (sure you can turn it off, and it's a minor annoyance at most, but still).

You one-spacers will have to pry my double-spaced sentences from my cold dead fingers. It's been scientifically proven to be at least marginally superior¹ (no matter how badly The Verge wants to try to convince anyone otherwise), it's substantially less ugly than using a single space, and it's easier for machines to parse (a period followed by two spaces or a line break is unambiguously the end of a sentence, whereas a period followed by a single space is - unless the two-space rule is in effect - ambiguous).

This is one substantial reason why, to me, no website will ever be quite as readable as a PDF (let alone print). At least a PDF-outputting typesetter (e.g. LaTeX) can intelligently account for this and add the additional spacing, and it looks fantastic and is delightfully readable when combined with properly-justified text (also a rarity in websites - and Word documents, for that matter). But with HTML, I can't even emulate it with double-spaces; browsers boneheadedly replace even the double-spaces with single spaces.

I certainly don't buy the "saving time" aspect, either: Ifwereallycaredaboutsavingtime,thenwhybotherwithspacesatall?Imaginehowmanykeyswecouldfitintoakeyboardifwegotridofthespacebarentirely!Nottomentionhowmanybyteswe'dsaveineverytextfile. (More seriously, unless you really really suck at typing, one v. two spaces should be entirely insignificant in terms of time spent) (EDIT: and I'm only half-joking about that suggestion; there are plenty of examples of people who don't use any spaces at all after sentence-terminating punctuation, so the aforementioned example is just taking things to their logical conclusion)


¹: https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13414-018-1527-6 (The Verge mentioned this in the article, irrationally downplaying its significance)

It seems slightly odd, given that there are different traditions of between-sentence spacing, that there doesn't seem to be a Unicode character for the kind of space between sentences.

As with all letter spacing, the size is determined by the font metrics. There doesn't need to be a special character for it.

Even assuming the goal is to get something like the below?


Not the person you asked, but I think so. Some fonts also convert “fi” into a character where the letter-spacing is very small and the i loses its point, so there’s definitely a mechanism for letter combination / adaptive spacing.

Converting "fi" into "fi" only requires a lookup table, though fonts can do some pretty fancy things: https://developer.apple.com/fonts/TrueType-Reference-Manual/...

Knowing that "Mr. Smith." is intra-sentence but "Me. Smith." is inter-sentence is well beyond what fonts can do, however.

I thought the rule was that ligatures shouldn't cross syllable boundaries. Like the fi in "fine" can be replaced but not the fi in "barfing", so it would need to be a bit more than a lookup table. Or maybe a dictionary-sized lookup table isn't a problem anymore.

I see https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/50660/when-shoul... suggesting this, but I don't believe any fonts implement this.

Are fonts Turing-complete now? I have a feeling they'll become such if not already there; a little programs, complete with configuration switches so that you can control if and how a combination of characters get converted into a ligature depending on surrounding context.

TrueType font hinting actually is Turing complete. A font may contain programs that run on a VM that has functions, variables, unbounded loops, etc.

There needs to be a character because a sentence is a grammatical concept not a lexical concept.

Mr. Bean is in one sentence, not two.

There are (maybe not explicitly designated as such, but en-space or em-space would be reasonable, I think). The problem is that there's no sane or consistent way to actually input these characters (besides perhaps a macro that detects double-spaces and replaces them with a single somewhat-longer-than-normal space).

Time to give RS a new purpose in life.

Strange, I learned double spacing in school in 1991 and have somehow gone my whole life until today without knowing or noticing that single spacing was even a thing.

If I as an author disable the check and continue to use double spaces, would it stop flagging on my machine only, or on the readers' machines too? If only on my machine, then the option to stop the flagging would do no good to me and I would request Microsoft to stop flagging this.

Instead of making such determinations on English grammar/punctuation/spacing, I would recommend Microsoft to first improve the grammar checker in Word to implement the well-settled rules of grammar, where it is significantly lagging with nearly no developments since a decade or longer.

Great! No more having to find/replace all the double-spacing in documents I review.

Please don't do that.

I came to say I know a couple of people that edit and format documents for a living and they hate getting documents with double spaces.


Because whether or not it is "correct" in some meta-sense, it probably isn't the style used by whatever organization they're doing the editing for. Organizations tend to have style guides for external documents. (And may go off different style guides/rules for different purposes.)

Because double spaces mess up their formatting tools. So they need to purge them always. If they miss one sometimes it means they need to go back, remove the errant double space and start over. Bonus getting a proof back and the customer put the double spaces back in.

Source: Way way too OCD for me ex-gf.

I used to be in favor of double-spacing but then learned it was because of monospaced fonts. So now I only do it when my output is in monospaced fonts.

Where did people learn to double space? I've never had anyone even mention such a thing in school.

Typing classes. That would be typing on an actual typewriter, not "keyboarding" on a computer.

I learned to touch-type on a computer, and still learned to use two spaces.

I was taught double spacing when learning how to write. The teachers specifically mentioned to write using an extra space between sentences.

Double spaces are considerably more readable, especially for those of us with visual impairments.

I stopped using Word when I need section numbering that wasn't completely broken. I am therefore not massively surprised they've left that broken for 20 years and decided instead to take sides in a white-space religious war. You know, to "help users."

This kind of deliberate but trivial breakage can't be an accident, and there's enought precedent ("let's screw with the VS/office interface today shall we"). So MS is up to something else, perhaps trying to keep themselves in the news? or something else.

But I don't believe that 'correcting' a typographical convention is what this is directly about.

> So MS is up to something else, perhaps trying to keep themselves in the news? or something else.

In larger teams and companies, changes move pretty slow through the design-development-QA pipeline. Maybe this change was made a year ago, and worked its way through the pipes only now?

What has this to do with my suggestion?

Having learned to type on a typewriter in the early 90s (yet another way to date myself) for a long time I used two spaces in word processing and emails etc, and then switched to one as it seemed the popular convention. At some point my brain made the switch to what it considers "normal". It's been so long, I can't remember when that happened.

> Microsoft has settled the great space debate

No, Microsoft doesn't get to "settle" a language issue.

This also reminds me that some (many?) French speaker believe upper-case accentuated letters (eg. É È À) are incorrect, just because it's impossible to type them on Windows (unless you know the right alt code, but most people don't) and typewriters.

I was so annoyed reading text with two spaces after each other that I've built a writing application [1] that just does not allow to insert two spaces or newlines.

[1] https://monsterwriter.app

This reminds me of the Tabs vs Space discussion, and how once Bill Gates did an AMA on Reddit and his answer was that tabs was better because of consistency.

Consistency with what, all the other code that uses tabs?

In code which uses tabs one logical indentation level is always one tab. You can show tab with different width in you editor, but the source code is consistent.

If spaces are used you never know how many spaces is one logical level. There is no agreement - some people prefer 2 spaces, some 4 and may be somebody uses 8 or 6.

Even worse - I sometimes see when in a single source file some parts use 2 spaces for one logical indent and some - 4 spaces.

They’re faster to use.

They’re consistent between fonts.

> They’re faster to use.

That's not really an argument. Every code editor can be configured to interpret the tab key as desired number of spaces.

Do any code editors also treat a delete of one of these spaces as removing the tab width size? (I've never seen it, but maybe there are ones that do that.) What tends to happen is that yes, the tab enters the N spaces, but if you have to move code around, you can find yourself deleting a lot of spaces.

I'm using VS Code and it does do that. It deletes back to the previous indentation level.

In the case when you move code around you will anyway go for Tab/Shift+Tab in any editor.

You are right, it looks like it tries to do the right thing on indent. Though if you try and use tabs to align anything after an indent it just treats them as spaces.

Not every editor can do this, and this sounds like a “solution” to a manufactured problem.

An historic day. Here’s Bill Hill advocating a single space after the period back in the early 2000’s: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SA3NsdPNbZY

The only thing more annoying is my car locks itself if I don't open the drivers side door. So basically when you unlock your car; open a rear door to retrieve some items, dropping your keys on the rear seat to free up both hands, and then shut the door because (A) it's raining, or (B) it's blocking your path or (C) any other reason--you will be locked out, and good and truly fucked. It's pure genius!

The only feature I enjoyed more, was the time the computer slammed on the brakes (for no real) reason while I was merging (my fault because I did neglect to shut off that idiotic automatic brake feature). There is however, no way to disable the automatic door locking feature.

That reminds me--I need to tape a brick inside of one of the wheel wells so I can smash open one of the windows, so I don't freeze to death some snowy winter night.

Many technical replies. Hardly any mentions of CMOS or other real authorities.

Yes. It seems many developers will honor coding conventions or Internet RFCs but love to engage in debate about orthography when it suits them, rather than referring to the Chicago Manual of Style or another authority.

How self-righteous are The Verge's writings about this...

This ruined me when I first tried to use gtypist. Couldn’t easily see the double space and got like every line wrong the first go around.

Argh! It’s not my fault, I was brainwashed as a child. I try to keep it down to just one space but I can’t help myself. I’m the victim here!

Do you also press space twice after a period in Java-ish languages?

Personally, in comments I do that yes.

I think the end of sentence space looks much better with two than one in monospace font, but I'm not especially bothered either way. When there is one space, it looks more like an abbreviation.

I'm mindful that if I do that in shared code, some people will decide I'm incompetent, old or something worse (instead of reading the actual code; people can be petty), so I'll modify my writing style to please others.

This HN comment has double spaces after the end of a sentence. Not that you can see it.

I think it's a shame HTML ruined the possibility of typographically pleasing sentence spacing that looks distinct from abbreviations. Way back, I used to add wider end of sentence spaces in HTML when running it through generators (like Markdown to HTML).

You did a great job in that comment, though :)

It's just how HTML is rendered, you'll never know whether OP used 1 or 2 spaces in that comment.

If you look at the comment through the Hacker News API, there's two spaces before the last sentence.


Although, the documentation says that field is HTML, so I'm not sure what to think.


Same in the HTML markup.

That's good. It's super annoying to read sentences that start with a double space, it burdens my reading speed.

As Jebus intended. Now if we can just enact the death penalty for people who don't use the Oxford comma!

I prefer a single space myself.

However, my copyeditor recently told me that, in order to promote distancing, MLA is going back to two spaces after a period for the remainder of this year...

So war then.

Great! Maybe I can finally kick the habit.

Good. The only reason that habit is a thing is because of typewriters, which are monospaced. Some people just cargo culted the practice long past its expiration date...which makes for awkward spacing.

Even on typewriters double spaces has been an English thing. In German it has never existed. And I have never noticed that it would have been difficult in reading typewritten German text because one wouldn't see where the sentences end. But then some English speakers might joke that in German you note the end of the sentence by finally hitting the last verb.

French punctuation looks weird to me, because they do require a space before and after every punctuation mark that consists of two parts (question mark, exclamation mark, French double quotes (guillemets) etc). Haven't heard that they would have ever required 2 spaces in a row, though. No idea about Spanish and other big languages.

Quoting from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_sentence_spacing

> French typists used a single space between sentences, consistent with the typeset French spacing technique, whereas English typists used a double space.

Edit: add full reference

The practice originally came from typesetting. If anything, it's more relevant and appropriate now than it was in the days when your font choices were limited to 12-point Pica and Elite.

That's not true. Go look at the us constitution, which is not typeset. There are bigger spaces after periods, see article I section 2, lines 3 and 4 for two examples.

That's a weird non-sequitur that has nothing to do with the topic, considering that the Constitution was handwritten, but it's still interesting to read about how things were done in that era:



So, thanks for the diversion down that particular rabbit hole, I guess.

> The practice [of two spaces after the period] originally came from typesetting

I'm just challenging that assertion, which is commonplace, but there's plenty of evidence to the contrary, many of which you can see with your own eyes.

It goes back much further than the late 18th century. This is a decent summary, although a bit short on citations for my liking:


   Literally centuries of typesetters and 
   printers believed that a wider space was 
   necessary after a period, particularly 
   in the English-speaking world.  It was 
   the standard since at least the time 
   that William Caslon created the first 
   English typeface in the early 1700s (and 
   part of a tradition that went back further),
   and it was not seriously questioned among 
   English or American typesetters until the 
   1920s or so.
Extra space after each sentence was and is a good idea, whether you're talking about handwritten documents or typeset ones. Typewritten documents arguably benefit the least from the practice. Point being, when single-space advocates say that double-spacing is obsolete and unnecessary because we don't use typewriters anymore, they are just plain wrong.

We're agreeing.

Programs that do typesetting for you (Markdown, LaTeX), will ignore the number of spaces after the period in your "source" code and lay it out in the output with a single space.

I've gotten in the habit of single-space in variable-width fonts, and double-space in fixed-width fonts.

Not so for the default mode in LaTeX.

It tries to guess which periods indicate end-of-sentence (based on whether the next letter is capitalized) and will add additional horizontal space accordingly, unless you tell it not to by declaring your document uses “French Spacing”.

(Edit: and my memory may be serving me incorrectly here, but I recall 20 years ago having a support package that also detected double-space in the source as another indicator of end-of-sentence, but that was probably a non standard extension.)

Won’t that mess up titles like Dr. Livingstone and Mr. President?

Splitting text into sentences is actually really hard.

> Splitting text into sentences is actually really hard.

It would be a lot less hard if we were able to unambiguously tell the computer whether a period ends a sentence. I wonder how we could possibly do that...

(Less sarcastically: a lot of Unix programs - Emacs, vim, troff, etc. - solve this problem by defaulting to double-spaced sentences, thus resolving the ambiguity. Kinda odd that this ain't the Tex approach; there's already precedent by using doubled-up ``backquotes'' and ``single quotes'' to produce “smart double quotes”, and lone `backquotes' and `single quotes' similarly become ‘smart single quotes’.)


  Prof.\@ Crumb
...is the behavior suppressor.

I usually force a narrow space after titles: Dr.\,Livingstone

I remember reading the TeXbook and learning that the space after a period is wider if there's a capital afterwards and the various ways of suppressing this behavior.

So it's a TeX thing, not LaTeX.

Thanks. I appreciate the attention to detail! FWIW, the distinction between the two is blurry given that most people I’ve known in academia never use TeX directly other then through LaTeX.

To be clear, it’s both.


LaTeX is based on TeX

This is doubly nonsense. TeX works very hard to make good looking spacing. Markdown emits HTML, which has a completely separate rendering engine for spacing. And the only reason HTML looks wrong is that the programmers of rendering engines weren’t as good as Knuth, and van Rossum’s anti-intellectualism lobbied against semantically rich markup for sentences.

It was required by APA until very recently , with the seventh edition. I feel zero shame for never paying that rule a gram of heed.

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