Many writers, even young ones whose fingers never hovered over the keys of a humming IBM Selectric, insist on putting two spaces after a period in their manuscripts. This is way old school. Typewriters, you see, used to use fixed-width fonts — Courier mostly — and the two spaces after a sentence helped with readability of the typescript. Typesetters were in the same boat.
But now we have computers with variable-width fonts, and a lot of our work is converted to one of the main ebook formats (EPUB or MOBI) for publication. The two spaces after sentence-ending periods can foul you up.
Trust me, I’ve seen it in my own stuff. An errant extra space that happens to come at the end of a line in a given font size (controlled by the reader, don’t forget) can cause a weird-looking layout that distracts easily distracted eyeballs. And in paperback formatting, you can get unjustified line breaks because the software is seeing the extra space as a character. You or your designer will have to fix these by hand. Time-consuming.
When I edit on the computer, I set the word processor to “show invisibles,” which refers to code symbols for hard returns, paragraph breaks, and page breaks. Spaces too, so it’s easy to see where you have extras. I do this so I can send back to the client a file that is as clean as it can be for the ebook formatter.
You can also remove extra spaces with a search-and-replace sweep, if you’ve already finished a manuscript and can’t stand the idea of going through the whole thing again line by line. We understand.
Now, I know that some style guides choose to retain the two spaces, and some of them claim that it improves readability. But since most print and digital publications have justified margins, spacing between words is variable, including the spaces between sentences. If you have that extra space, the result can become positively gaping, like a missing tooth. Besides, who reads typescripts anymore?
Editors, I guess. Like me. But I’m willing to put my own needs aside for your sake.
You’ll find plenty of sticklers out there who still prefer two spaces, but their arguments are specious, in my opinion. They just like doing things the way they’ve always done them.
Join the rest of us, won’t you? — enter the 21st century and use one space after your periods.