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Spaces after a period (yes, it's *that* discussion)


I was glad to see more discussion about Hannu's microblogging post from a few days ago, and while reading those I found a postscript in bouncepaw's reply to the reply to the reply:


> P.S. It's cute how acdw puts two spaces after dots and Hannu and I use just one. Are you from the Western hemisphere, acdw?

-- bouncepaw@tanelorn.city


I *am* from the Western hemisphere -- I've lived in the US my whole life -- though I was taught in school, alternatively, that both one space and two are correct. I've also read a lot of blog posts and polemics that state that *ONE* space after a period is correct, or *TWO* spaces is the One True Way -- honestly there are so many around online that I'm not going to link any here, just do a search -- but at some point I just *decided* that I would do two spaces after periods, for a few reasons, now that I think about it:


2 spaces was originally used in Typewriting because 2 spaces looks better in a monospace font. I think so, and apparently many other people do too. (citation needed -- the info is there but I don't feel like deep research right now.)

When those typewritten manuscripts were published in books, the spaces after periods were made thinner -- though still a little thicker than an interword space! I think the "traditional" published inter-sentence spaces were something like one-and-a-half inter-word spaces, or something like that. Either way, it was an aesthetic decision.

When computers came around, for the first long time they used pretty extensively monospaced fonts -- I'm sure most of you on geminispace are aware of this. So 2 spaces made sense. Also, teachers for a while talked about 2 spaces like it was a *rule*, like not splitting infinitives or something (which is a whole other problematic "rule", but I digress). I'm pretty sure I learned in school that 2 spaces after a period were the rule -- and I know that some style guides, like MLA, *mandate* 2 spaces after periods on Works Cited pages, or did back in edition 7.

When Word Processors came around, with fancy fonts and easy publishing paradigms, they started flagging 2 spaces as errors (I think?). Which made sense, because with the variable-width fonts that word processors send to the printer, one space between sentences looks better than two.

Then there's HTML, LaTeX, etc. I think LaTeX does the correct slightly-wide space in between sentences, regardless of what the source does. HTML squashes all whitespace between words into one anyway (most of the time -- see 'whitespace-pre' et al.), so it really doesn't matter how many spaces you put between sentences -- one or ten or a hundred will all render the same on the web.

Ending a sentence with 2 spaces means that other places where a period is used, for example after "Mr." or "e.g.", can't be confused for the end of a sentence by smart software. See, for example, 'cpo+=J', 'joinspaces', 'fo+=p' in Vim.


Because of the desire to separate authorship from publication, I began typing two spaces after my periods when I write in Vim and other plain-text editors. When writing in desktop *publishers*, however, like Microsoft Word or LibreOffice, I tend to use one space between sentences. Since I write my gemini posts in plaintext environments, I use two spaces between sentences.


And that's all I have to say about that.

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I'd love to hear others' thoughts and usages surrounding two spaces -- I love those weird little side-effects of language and how it . (Another would be using '--' instead of —, or " for both ends of a quote -- though of course, other languages have more differentiable quote markers, which is a whole other discussion.)

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