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Sentence Spacing — 1 Space or 2? 814

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the how-about-none dept.
An anonymous reader noted an epic battle is waging, the likes of which has not been seen since we all agreed that tab indenting for code was properly two spaces. He writes "Do you hit the space bar two times between sentences, or only one? I admit, I'm from the typewriter age that hits it twice, but the article has pretty much convinced me to change. My final concern: how will my word processor know the difference between an abbr. and the end of a sentence (so it can stretch the sentence for me)? I don't use a capital letter for certain technical words (even when they start a sentence), making it both harder to programmatically detect a new sentence and more important to do so. What does the Slashdot community think?"
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Sentence Spacing — 1 Space or 2?

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  • False assumption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tedgyz (515156) * on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:18PM (#33139788) Homepage

    we all agreed that tab indenting for code was properly two spaces

    Say what?!?? Who made that decision? In the java world, 4 spaces is pretty standard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by biryokumaru (822262)
      Microsoft used to be pretty fond of 8 spaces... that was painful...
      • by Cryolithic (563545) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:34PM (#33140124)
        The linux Kernel is (was?) 8 spaces. The idea between 8 space tabs is that if your code is indented so far as to be a pain to read, then you should probably look into why it's so nested.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rickb928 (945187)

        ASCII back when there was 'just' ASCII, was an 8 space tab. MS adopted that where it was needed, and in my world, 8 spaces for a tab is standard.

        If you're just indenting, whatever you like. If your envirenment or prefers a different standard, either adopt it or be prepared to cause problems.

        I tend to indent 1 or 2 spaces, because I can make sense of it. But some editing software has its own ideas.

        And this is not the most important topic for us to consider.

        • Re:False assumption (Score:5, Informative)

          by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:18PM (#33141060)
          ASCII back when there was 'just' ASCII, was an 8 space tab.

          ASCII when there was just ASCII had a tab character which was commonly interpreted as "tab to the next multiple of 8 column". If you were in column 4, a tab would not look like 8 spaces, it would look like 4 spaces.

          On the keypunch I used, TAB meant "advance to the next tab column as indicated on your drum card." For FORTRAN, that meant the first tab skipped to column 2 (line number), the next tab to column 6 (continuation), the next to 7, a few every four spaces, and then off to column 72 (card number).

          Every reasonable typewriter I used had tab stop settings so you could define what columns a tab took you to.

          If your envirenment or prefers a different standard, either adopt it or be prepared to cause problems.

          Thus was created "indent", which converts code from all those other people's atrocious formatting styles into your preferred on and back.

    • Re:False assumption (Score:5, Informative)

      by conteXXt (249905) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:21PM (#33139830)

      I think this is the joke.

      • Re:False assumption (Score:4, Informative)

        by ronocdh (906309) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:55PM (#33140532)

        The best jokes are never understood on first telling.

        Back to the subject at hand, however, why not consult the Chicago Manual of Style [chicagomanualofstyle.org]? To cut to the chase:

        So, in our efficient, modern world, I think there is no room for two spaces after a period. In the opinion of this particular copyeditor, this is a good thing.

        Seems pretty reasonable to me, and it's from quite a credible source. Read the full page for justification (no pun intended).

        • by Civil_Disobedient (261825) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:59PM (#33141742)

          So, in our efficient, modern world, I think there is no room for two spaces after a period. In the opinion of this particular copyeditor, this is a good thing.

          Efficiency has nothing to do with it. In fact, efficiency is a complete red-herring, since presumably in our efficient, modern world we could simply write software to be intelligent enough to automatically add a space between sentences when it detects a period-space-word starting with a capital letter.

          The reason you add two spaces is because the additional space aids your eyes in determining individual sentences. If you only use a single space to delineate words and sentences, all paragraphs merge into a jumble. Two spaces gives the eyes an additional visual cue, and thus is far easier to parse.

          and it's from quite a credible source

          An appeal to authority is less argumentatively valid than an appeal to reason. The Chicago Manual of Style gives no reason except some hand-waiving about our "efficient, modern world," which is a huge, steaming pile of bunkum.

          • Re:False assumption (Score:5, Informative)

            by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @02:40PM (#33142334)

            The reason you add two spaces is because the additional space aids your eyes in determining individual sentences

            That was the reason in the days of typewriters. And it continues to be the reason if you are writing in a text editor using a monospaced font. But a word processor will space a document properly, such that the space between sentences IS wider than a space between words.

          • Two spaces after a period that ends a sentence.

            Otherwise, Dr. Ms. Mrs. Mme. Mr. Mlle. etc. eng. fr. and all those other abbreviations look like they end a sentence.

            Tab, of course, is ASCII 9, not "n * 0x20", where n==some value between 1 and whatever. Look at python code, where leading white space counts - mixing tabs with spaces is dumb.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cfulmer (3166)

            Computers really aren't very good at figuring this stuff out -- how would it space "Mr. Smith" or "Prof. Jones" or "M. Chevalier"?

            Personally, I'd rather have the computers figure out "Oh... period followed by two spaces followed by Capital letter. Must have started a new sentence" and correct appropriately.

        • by tempest69 (572798) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @02:17PM (#33141976) Journal
          A person who is having issues reading with one or two spaces causing problems needs to stop whining. However, I like the double space after the sentence. It provides me with a better cadence for capitalization. The sound gives me that nice feeling that a chunk of writing is completed. As a single space makes it feel as if the entire paragraph is one uninterrupted stream of thought.

          As far as efficiency is concerned -WTF- people have a data density that they want in their communications, as the extra space allows for some time to comprehend the data, assuming that the reader is maintaining a pace.

    • by chebucto (992517) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:22PM (#33139872) Homepage

      It's a well-known fact that God uses 3-space tabs [gnu.org]. I don't want to go to hell, so that's what I use, but your eternal soul is your own call, buddy.

    • by Brett Buck (811747) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:49PM (#33140428)

      Three is the number of the counting, and the counting of the number shall be three.

  • by glwtta (532858) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:21PM (#33139844) Homepage
    Well fuck you too, then.
    • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:32PM (#33140086)
      1 .Attend meeting with some sort of electronic device.
      Ask "Should I use spaces or tabs for newlines?"
      3. Hang out and serf web.
      4. Discussion settled? Ask "Should there be brackets around code even if there's only one line? Like this:

      If( foo == true)
      a=x;

      Or is it:
      If( foo = true)
      {
      a=x;
      }

      sit back and surf web for a few more hours.

      • by maxwell demon (590494) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:44PM (#33140328) Journal

        "Should I use spaces or tabs for newlines?"

        Neither. Depending on the system you're working on, use either a carriage return, a line feed, or a line feed followed by a carriage return. Fortunately the return key usually generates the correct newline marker for your system.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by orasio (188021)

        Number 4. :
        Yes.

        Not leaving brackets around one-liners is an invitation to mistakes.
        If you want to add a debug line to the one-line block, you need to add brackets.
        If you remove it, then remove the brackets.
        Using them always gives you one less thing to think about.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:22PM (#33139858)

    [Insert one thousand opinions here]

    The only one that matters: Is it still readable?

    We have bigger problems in the world than "one space or two" ... for example, people's atrocious speling.

  • One space (Score:5, Informative)

    by GuJiaXian (455569) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:22PM (#33139862) Homepage

    I've been an editor (copy editor, proofreader, senior editor, etc.) for 10 years now. One space.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Culture20 (968837)

      I've been an editor (copy editor, proofreader, senior editor, etc.) for 10 years now. One space.

      Oh yeah? I've been a typer for 25+ years now. Two spaces (but HTML will render it as one without manual spacing which has always bugged me since 1994).

    • Re:One space (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rob the Bold (788862) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:59PM (#33140622)

      I've been an editor (copy editor, proofreader, senior editor, etc.) for 10 years now. One space.

      Why stop there? Really. Is even one space really needed? Doesn't a period, question mark or exclamation point denote the end of a sentence. Why go all redundant and put a space in at all . . .

      Oops, I guess an ellipsis can end a sentence too.

      I'm not being snarky here. But I am thinking that the answer to the question "Why not zero spaces?" would be "Because that would make it harder to read".

    • Re:One space (Score:5, Informative)

      by Thinboy00 (1190815) <{thinboy00} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @03:29PM (#33143116) Journal

      Wikipedia's featured article [wikipedia.org] on the subject (happens to be today's, actually).

  • by ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:22PM (#33139864)

    Two spaces are appropriate for typewriters and similar monospaced fonts (Courier, Monaco, Andale Mono, Consolas, Vera, Deja Vu mono)

    One space for proportional fonts (Times, Helvetica, almost everything.)

    • by Zocalo (252965) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:41PM (#33140266) Homepage
      You forgot about the special case where you should use variable amounts of spaces, at random, to add to the horror that is is Comic Sans.
  • Twice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jockeys (753885) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:23PM (#33139876) Journal
    Old enough to have typed on a typewriter as a child, so twice.

    As an interesting note, the iPhone auto-enters a period when you double space, so the tradition is still partially alive, at least.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      As an interesting note, the iPhone auto-enters a period when you double space, so the tradition is still partially alive, at least.

      True, but it inserts a single space with that period.

  • Depends on the font (Score:5, Informative)

    by jpatters (883) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:23PM (#33139884)

    It depends on the font. If it is monospaced (such as on a typewriter) it should be two spaces. If you are using a proportional font, use one space.

  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:24PM (#33139910)
    It's easier for a human to determine sentence structure when sentences are set apart by two spaces, too.
    • by Tungbo (183321) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:54PM (#33140508)

      If you are doing type setting, by all means use 1 spaces. But as you cut and paste your texts into different programs, you may be pasting into different default type faces. Sometimes it's proportional and sometimes it's monospaced. So why not use 2 spaces to be on the safe side? It's simple to programmatically replace 2 spaces by 1 space any way, if necessary. Let's be considerate of our readers rather than swear allegiance to a rule learnt in our youth.

  • 2. Duh. But... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slgrimes (974517) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:24PM (#33139914)
    I always put 2 spaces at the end of a sentence. Oddly, though, I've noticed that when I type, if it's a space between words I use my right thumb. For the end of my sentence, I use my left one. Something I didn't even realize I did until about 6 months ago, and I've been doing this for about 20 years!
  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:24PM (#33139918)
    ...that you need to get out more. Adopt a dog. Maybe find a girlfriend.

    Seriously, dude. We're starting to worry about you.

  • OLD NEWS (1989) (Score:5, Informative)

    by starglider29a (719559) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:24PM (#33139920)
    http://www.amazon.com/Mac-not-typewriter-professional-level-Macintosh/dp/1877932051/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1280942506&sr=1-4 [amazon.com]

    The Mac is not a typewriter not only lays down guidelines, but explains the logic behind them, such as why punctuation should be hung, why there should not be two spaces after periods, why text set in all caps should be avoided.

  • Word processor? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:26PM (#33139938) Journal
    If your word processor is using the whitespace that you enter, rather than typesetting your text according to whatever your style rules define, you need to get a new word processor. I tend to use two spaces at the end of a sentence, because I tend to edit text in monospace and it gives me a clear visual break between sentences, but that doesn't mean that I expect two spaces in the typeset output - even a web browser is more intelligent than that. Generally I find around 1.2-1.4 gives maximum readability. You want a slightly larger gap between sentences than between words, but double the width of a normal space gives too large a gap for easy reading. Of course, the width of a single space varies slightly from line to line when typesetting justified text.
  • Use LaTeX. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by R.Mo_Robert (737913) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:26PM (#33139948)

    Use LaTeX (especially if you're typing technical things), then you won't have to worry about it. Type what you mean, and let the typesetter and styles handle the details.

    (I should note that if have a period followed by space that isn't a new sentence or a or a period following a capital letter that is, in which case you'll need to mark up the period with \ or @ to let it know, but these are generally fringe cases.)

    • Re:Use LaTeX. (Score:5, Informative)

      by WillAdams (45638) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:45PM (#33140342) Homepage

      Not really fringe cases, and requires a bit of effort, unless one uses \frenchspacing (which is not the default) so one _will_ need to think about it, since TeX by default adds more space after a period, so one must indicate which periods do not require additional spacing, e.g.:

      Dr.\ Knuth was very concerned with the typography of his published articles and books. This resulted in his development of \TeX\ when early systems for page composition were unable to match the old styles. While it handles many things automatically, it does require a certain attention in the preparation of the text, i.e.\ indicating normal width spaces by preceding them with a backslash.
      \vfill\eject\bye

      William

  • One (Score:5, Funny)

    by mseeger (40923) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:26PM (#33139964)

    During the early area of the internet (around 1990) i held courses and taught new users, how to use the "blank" correctly. Rules were:

    • no space before ")" and ",",
    • no space after "(" and
    • one space after "." and ",".

    People who didn't followed the rule were convicted for excessive blanking.... at least here in germany.

    CU, Martin

  • Depends on format (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Geisel (12180) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:27PM (#33139996) Homepage

    Myself, I'm a two-space typer. My finger know a sentence-ending period is followed by two spaces and they just do it. However, in certain formats, such as HTML, white space is ignored anyway and then formatted by the format-processor (obviously a web browser in the case of HTML).

    While I'm a two-spacer, the medium in which we type is largely making this a moot point.

    -geis

  • by ejtttje (673126) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:28PM (#33140000) Homepage
    This diverging discussion is the perfect example of why it is clear the ideal code indentation is a TAB. Set your editor to display whatever indentation width you like, don't expect to inflict that choice on everyone else. Plus it eliminates the possibility of sloppy partial indentations, and it's fewer keystrokes to boot. Win, win, win.
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:40PM (#33140250) Homepage

      This diverging discussion is the perfect example of why it is clear the ideal code indentation is a TAB. Set your editor to display whatever indentation width you like, don't expect to inflict that choice on everyone else. Plus it eliminates the possibility of sloppy partial indentations, and it's fewer keystrokes to boot. Win, win, win.

      I'll grant you that on one condition ... if your fancy text-formatter is going to write in a consistent number of chars so that if it's rendered by another editor it still works, then fine. Otherwise, no.

      A former co-worker and I got into this argument. His emacs would use a single "tab" char to display between 1 and 40 tabs because it "knew" what it meant to do, but any other editor might render it like shit since it didn't have the right number of actual chars and relied on a specific mode.

      It caused huge problems with those of using different editors which didn't interpret the tabs the same way. Eventually, I locked him out of CVS until he fixed his emacs to adhere to our coding standard -- our manager agreed with me. :-P

      If you mean it to be 8 levels of indent, you need 8 placeholder items. Not one which is interpreted by your *^&%* editor (and only your editor). Otherwise, you end up with vast diffs specific to whitespace, and not what was changed. The resulting document must be properly rendered in any text editor, and it must do it consistently.

      But, yes. The Tab is the unit of measure, and your editor can render a tab as however many chars make you happy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by noidentity (188756)
      Yes, tab represents the intent, rather than the implementation. And before anyone complains that the code will format wrong if you do view it with the wrong tab spacing, that's because you're using tabs wrong. Where horizontal alignment between lines is important, you should be sure they align no matter what the tab spacing.

      But I think this discussion is about putting spaces after the period that ends a sentence, not whether to use one or two spaces for indention. Applying the above here, you should repre

    • by Ragzouken (943900) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:08PM (#33140822)

      Elastic tabstops (http://nickgravgaard.com/elastictabstops/) are the future.

  • Ok (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thyamine (531612) <<thyamine> <at> <ofdragons.com>> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:29PM (#33140022) Homepage Journal
    So I started reading this, thinking oh this sounds interesting to ponder. And then I got about halfway through the wiki entry and realized, ok no it's not. I learned with two spaces. Let me know when the discussion is done and I'll just do that.
  • by toby (759) * on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:36PM (#33140160) Homepage Journal

    Ever since proportional fonts came to the desktop, people have found it hard to decide whether they are 'typing' or setting type. (eventually, in the DTP era, there was even a book, The Mac is not a Typewriter [abebooks.com]).

    In typesetting, all word spaces are treated equal (except by TeX, which implements a more typewriter-like convention after periods; it also subtly modifies spacing after commas, semicolons too). This may also be a European/North American distinction, similar to the spaced-en-dash versus unspaced-em-dash convention.

    TeX, and the TeXbook, are where many geeks from the CS side of the fence got their first typographic exposure and education. Some of Knuth's aesthetic decisions, like this one, do smell a bit funny to professional typographers. But his implementation of math setting is probably close to definitive (damn it Jim, I'm a typographer not a mathematician).

    Wait till they find out that German uses letterspacing for boldfacing, and that it used to be normal practice to have thin spaces before punctuation, etc, etc... The study of typographic conventions is easily a life's work.

  • by itsdapead (734413) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:39PM (#33140240)

    <posting target-moderation="funny">

    <sentence tone="exclamation">silly boy</sentence>

    <sentence>you <contraction>should not</contraction> be mixing content with layout</sentence>

    <sentence>use an <acronym>extended markup language</acronym> schema that removes the ambiguity and allows the viewer to determine <alternative-list><item>his</item><item>her</item></alternative-list> preferred layout and punctuation <aside>or even see it presented in <abbrev>text message</abbrev>format allowing accessibility by teenage people</aside> </sentence>

    </posting>

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:44PM (#33140326) Homepage

    ...was properly two spaces."

    Like hell we did.

  • by ProppaT (557551) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:45PM (#33140340) Homepage

    If you read the question, we're talking about text, not code. I couldn't care less what you do with your code; however, as a professional writer, the new standard is one space.

    If you really want to get into the the theory behind it, it's actually quite simple. We now use one space to avoid "rivers of white" in text. In short, if you look at a sample of documents that have been double spaced after the punctuation, you'll start to notice lines of white that run throughout the document. This distracts the reader and lowers the readability of the document. In typewriter days, two spaces made a lot of sense. Due to the large variation of widths in characters, it helped keep a more uniform space between sentences. With modern word processors and fonts, the need for the double space as been eliminated.

    Now, when you get into typography and design, you're dealing with aesthetic and this will vary on a case by case basis. Letter spacing, kerning, and leading all come into play and it's less about the number of spaces you use and more about how you're using your spaces. In coding, I could see the use for even more than two spaces.

    *NOTE* - It might seem contradictory that I'm advocating single spacing, yet I've double spaced between all my sentences. I'm an old school typewriter guy and old habits die hard. This is why modern technology is so great. I have all of my software set to only allow single spacing between sentences. I always do document searches for double spaces. All of my professional writing goes out single spaced. All of my personal writing goes out double spaced, completely out of laziness.

  • The bible says One (Score:3, Informative)

    by mretondo (809932) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:53PM (#33140506)
    When the "Fifteenth Edition of The Chicago Manual of Style" (the bible on grammar) came out around eight years or so ago, the authors were on WGN radio in Chicago promoting the book and taking questions. Someone called in asking this very question about one or two spaces at the end of a sentence (I wanted to call and ask the same question). The authors were very clear, one, even for mono space fonts.
  • by tyrione (134248) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:55PM (#33140536) Homepage
    I don't care if you're a casual writer or developer, having the Chicago Manual of Style [15th Edition myself] on hand will teach you to become a much better typesetter in your work.
  • by OldeTimeGeek (725417) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:57PM (#33140584)
    "A single character space, not two spaces, should be left after periods at the end of sentences (both manuscript and in final, published form) and after colons."
  • by Fantom42 (174630) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:29PM (#33141270)
    <paragraph>
      <sentence>
        <word>The</word>
        <word>only</word>
        <word>way</word>
        <word>to</word>
        <word>fix</word>
        <word>this</word>
        <word>is</word>
        <word>with</word>
        <word>XML</sentence>
      <sentence>
        <word>Totally</word>
        <word>human</word>
        <word>readable</sentence>
    </paragraph>
  • by gig (78408) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @02:03PM (#33141796)

    The first thing I do when I edit an article or manuscript is run a find/replace to find 2 spaces and replace with 1. Same as every other editor. So your spaces are all wasted work.

    In the past it was correct to use 2 spaces when typing fixed-width type, and it was wrong when typing proportional type. Today, 2 spaces is always wrong because we don't use typewriters. Today, you just write semantically, not for presentation, because we have infinite varieties of presentation, your writing will certainly not always be published in fixed-width type. In other words, put in good data (a complete sentence followed by a space and then another complete sentence) and leave out bad data (extra spaces.)

    > typewriter

    There is your problem. Note that the year starts with a "2". There are these things called computers. They are garbage-in-garbage-out. 2 spaces after a sentence is garbage that someone will have to clean up.

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