One Space or Two After a Period?

One Space or Two

One or Two Spaces?

It turns out that, in today’s world, the correct answer is almost always one:

Use just one space after a period.

Later in this article, I will show you how that extra little space can make a big difference in Kindle formatting.

If you want to learn why one space is better than two, why most educated people believe that “two” is the correct answer, when it’s really “one,” and how this misunderstanding has evolved, check out a really cool article called “Space Invaders” by Farhad Manjoo in Slate Magazine:

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/01/space_invaders.html

If you self-publish, this becomes a practical matter:

  • Examine traditionally published books carefully. You’ll see that one space after a period is almost universal.
  • Two spaces after a period can exaggerate gaps in justified text. This is important for both print books and e-books.
  • On Kindle e-books, that extra space can create a noticeable formatting problem (as I’ll demonstrate in the last picture of this article).

Study the following picture. The first paragraph uses two spaces after each period, while the second paragraph uses just one. In both cases, you can see large gaps in the justified text. But in the second paragraph, on any given line, the gaps are consistent across the line. In the first paragraph, there are very large gaps after the periods.

One Space Example

Tip: Activate Word’s hyphenation tool to help reduce the gaps in justified text.

  • In Word 2003, find this in Tools > Language > Hyphenation. In Word 2010, it’s under Page Layout > Hyphenation.
  • Go to File > Options (look below Help) > Advanced > Layout Options (it’s at the bottom, and doesn’t seem like something you can click, but you can click it) and check the box to hyphenate like WordPerfect in Word 2010.
  • Increase the hyphenation zone to avoid excessive hyphenation. Something like 0.4 may work well.
  • Manually hyphen by inserting a hyphen in a natural syllable break (consult a dictionary).
  • Manually override an automatic hyphen by placing your cursor at the beginning of the word and pressing Shift + Enter.
  • Don’t do any manual hyphenation until the book is virtually ready to publish. If you do any revisions to your book, you must inspect carefully for the impact those revisions may have on manual hyphenation adjustments (e.g. a small revision in a paragraph could cause a manually inserted hyphen to no longer appear at the end of a line).
  • Don’t do any manual hyphenation in your e-book. (But, of course, you should have hyphens in compound words that use hyphens, like self-published.)

If you use two spaces after a period in a Kindle e-book, this becomes noticeable whenever a period happens to fall at the end of a line. Look closely where the red arrows point in the picture below. The top paragraph uses two spaces, while the bottom paragraph uses just one, after a period. The bottom paragraph has better formatting.

Kindle Test Two Spaces Show

If you already have two spaces after each period, it’s easy to fix this mistake. Simply use the replace tool. Enter two consecutive spaces in the find field and a single space in the replace field.

Chris McMullen

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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