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Grammar Tips & Tidbits


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How many spaces between sentences?


There is still a bit of confusion about whether it is appropriate to use one or two spaces at the end of a sentence. When we originally learned to type on typewriters, many of us were taught to use two spaces at the end of every sentence. Apparently the rules changed midstream, and some of us never received the memo!

Here's a quick history lesson for you—when we used typewriters, each letter and its surrounding white space took up the same amount of width, so extra spacing was needed to separate sentences from each other. Since modern computer fonts use letters of varying width (for example, the letter i takes up less width than the letter w), extra spacing is no longer necessary, and one space has become the standard.

As always, there are exceptions to the rule. According to The Gregg Reference Manual (¶102), it is acceptable and even desirable to use extra spacing at the end of a sentence when you believe a stronger visual break is necessary. However, the manual also provides a couple of exceptions to the exception: do not use two spaces at the end of sentences when preparing manuscripts for printing or if full justification will be used to format the text.

I am one of those people who was taught to use two spaces between sentences, and I am still trying to break the habit! If you also have trouble remembering to use only one space, you can always use the "Find/Replace" function in Microsoft Word to change all the double spaces to single spaces with just a few clicks of your mouse. You can also change your settings in Word so that it will indicate an error when you type two spaces between sentences. To do this, go to Tools/Options/Spelling & Grammar/Settings. Under the "Require" section, set the spaces required between sentences to 1. Thanks to Michelle Zambos-Duerksen of M'n'M Training for this wonderful Microsoft Office tip!

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