Posted by: Jodi | August 6, 2010

The Great Space Debate

Recently I was looking through submission guidelines on a site and stumbled across one that shocked me.  To be considered for this particular publication you must only use one space between sentences.

ONE?

When did this happen?!?  I’ve never heard of only using one space between sentences and now it might be grounds for rejection. This site was taking submissions for full length novels.  The idea of having to go in and remove one space between each sentence throughout a whole book was enough to consider not submitting to the site.  Not that I’m ready to submit yet anyway.

I guess this is serious, so I did some research (meaning I read what Wikipedia had to say about it).  Here’s what I learned:

The practice of using a single space after the end of a sentence is called French Spacing.  Using two spaces is referred to as English Spacing.  This was during the pre-typewriter era where typesetters used different spacers depending on regional preference.  Typewriters changed things; a single space didn’t look wide enough to signify the end of a sentence.  Thus the birth of the double space between sentences; what I learned in my Jr. High typing class.

With the birth of the word processor and proportional fonts the extra space is no longer needed.  A proportional font is smart enough to adjust the spacing after each character and punctuation mark to make the text look its best.  According to Mr. Wiki:

Publishers usually require manuscripts to be submitted as they will appear in publication—single sentence spaced.[86] Writing sources typically recommend that prospective authors remove extra spaces before submitting manuscripts,[87] although publishers will use software to remove the spaces before final publication.[88] Finally, some experts state that, while double spacing sentences in unpublished papers and informal use (such as e-mail) might be fine,[89] double sentence spacing in desktop-published (DTP) works will make the final result look “unprofessional” and “foolish”.[90]

(links go to footnotes in original wiki article)

For those of you who choose to take publishing into your own hands, be aware; some snobbish person will think those double spaced gaps between sentences are unprofessional.  The rest of us don’t frankly care.

Want to read more about it?  Check out the  Wiki article “Sentence Spacing”

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Responses

  1. Good grief, I was traumatised just reading that. (And look there: this spell checker wants an American z in traumatised!)
    Where is English going?
    *wanders off wailing*

    • Cindy, I ❤ you and your English s.

    • It shook me up too! I really don’t want to retrain my hands to only do one space either, the habit is way too ingrained to leave without a fight.

  2. You’re going to laugh at my ignorance but I had forgotten about this double spaced rule. Suddenly, when reading your post, I remembered it back from my typing class days. I must admit to being very relieved that I already have one space only in between sentences in my entire manuscript.

    • Thanks heavens you haven’t fallen into the trap the rest of us have – makes life so much easier.

  3. I heard about this single space rule a year or so ago, and decided to ignore it.

    I like double spacing between sentences.

    In fact, sometimes, I prefer to end a sentence by starting a new paragraph.

    My writing. My rules. ; )

    • I’ve noticed the one sentence per paragraph trend on your blog and was wondering why on earth you would do that. Now I know!

  4. BTW: I love the title for this piece. : )

    • Tee hee hee – I couldn’t help it, Rik probably smacked his head when he read it. Right after he knew I read his blogology article!

  5. Jodi
    Good post. While I understand the reason for double spaces, and can see why some folks would opt for single, I think that the particular publisher who insists on single rather than the style that has been taught in every typing class in just about forever has another reason, other than breaking tradition, in mind.
    Publishers are inundated daily with garbage manuscripts. So-called writers who have trouble punctuating a single sentence slap 60 or 70 thousand words together and submit. “Writers” who haven’t kept up with the publishing world no doubt believe that the publisher’s editors will take their heap and turn it into a best-seller. They probably also believe in the tooth fairy.
    My guess is such a publisher is trying to weed out lazy writers from people who believe enough in their work to make the change.
    I’m not saying this is right–or good–and it is just a guess, but still…

    • What?!? No tooth fairy! I’m so disillusioned. Most all editors have software that will automatically remove the extra spaces so I’m not sweating it. This particular site doesn’t offer editing at all so it’s more of a “we’ll print and sell (and make $$$) off your hard work and do the minimum amount of work possible.”

  6. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was shocked to find out about the one space rule. Old habits die hard. Even typing this response I find I can’t easily make the changeover.

  7. I don’t know if I can retrain these stubborn fingers to only single space either! Ah, the trials of our generation.

  8. And here the rationale I heard for two spaces at the end of a sentence was that it made it easier on the editor’s eyes! And since the one and only goal in submitting unsolicited work is to make the editor happy with your writing, it was therefore a good thing. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I suppose — or else the rules are just plain different for novels and short fiction submitted to periodicals.

  9. I am very surprised and I will make it my mission this week to research this even further.
    Thanks for the post.


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