One little press of the spacebar can make a huge difference.
One teensy weensy little extra space was added between the words of this sentence.
See the difference? It’s just a space. What does it matter?
How many spaces do you use after a period before starting the next sentence? A very common answer ─ even among well-educated people ─ is two. Those same people tend to be very surprised to discover that publishers actually use just one space ─ not two ─ after periods. That’s right, if you don’t believe it, you should start pulling traditionally published books from your bookshelves and inspecting them. If you look closely, you’ll see that there is just once space there.
Most of us were taught that there should be two spaces after a period. Historically, the reason for the extra space has to do with the typewriter. The trend of adding this extra space continues today – as many teachers continue to teach what they were taught. This extra space is actually a good idea for teachers: Just like double spacing an essay, an extra space after the period leaves a little more room for annotations on students’ papers (specifically, a correction note for capitalization at the beginning of a sentence of punctuation at the end). Teachers are also probably used to seeing this extra space, and so it may look strange to their eyes to suddenly see one space instead.
The problem is that so many people who were taught to use two spaces in school are now self-publishing books. Thus, the two-space trend has entered into the publishing industry. Here’s the thing: Traditional publishers use one space, not two. If you want your book to look like a traditionally published book, then one space following a period is the correct answer.
Look, I’m a two-spacer myself. I have used two spaces in every paragraph of this blog, until now. This paragraph just has one space after the period. The paragraphs that follow also just feature one space. Compare the paragraphs to see the difference.
Which do you prefer? You could say that it’s just a matter of style. It’s an aesthetic quality. Right?
Wrong! If you publish ebooks, the correct answer is to use just one space after the period – not two. Why? Because the text displayed on ereaders may occasionally show a formatting issue when two spaces are used instead of one.
Word processors, such as Word, accommodate the extra space nicely. If a sentence happens to end at the end of a line, Word will hide the extra space. This is convenient because many teachers require this extra space on essays or lab reports.
However, ereaders often do not hide this extra space. When a sentence ends at the end of a line and a new sentence begins on the next line, the extra space either appears at the end of the first line (making it appear to end short compared to the other lines) or at the beginning of the next line (making it appear to start late compared to the other lines). So if you want even margins in your ebook, use one space instead of two after periods.
Stuck in the old ways? So am I. Here’s what you do: When your manuscript is finished, use the Replace tool to collapse two consecutive spaces down to one. (And if you can retrain yourself to use one space instead of two, your thumbs won’t have to work quite as hard to type a book.)
You may be interested in an article called “Space Invaders.” It’s the resource that enlightened me. Here’s the link:
Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers