There should be only one space after a period in just about anything you send out to magazines these days. Unless you are a lawyer, I think. But for creative writers and, in many cases, non-lawyer academics (though the rules for those magazines tend to be more quirky), when you submit a story or an article anywhere, you should probably have one lone space after the periods.
“Kicking and screaming” would not be too hyperbolic a phrase to describe my reaction to, years ago, a friend informing me that these days you should only put one space after a period.
I had read this wisdom already, probably over a decade before, in 8th grade. I was reading a manual on how to use Macintosh computers for a graphic design class and the writer of said tome remarked that it was standard to only put one space after a period. I remember this, so disturbing a sentiment it was to young Molly: Look at the type in this book, exhorted the author. There’s only one space after the periods.
I believe my reaction to this statement was: fuck you. Mavis Beacon had taught me to put two spaces after a period when I typed and by God, I was a believer in Mavis Beacon. Through high school, through college, Christ, through my first year of grad school, every damn period had two spaces after it. My reasoning was that you pause longer at the end of sentences than you do at comas, and thus it was intuitive punctuation. Also, that’s how “they used to do it.” Holla!
Then I began working on a creative project with a cohort, and said cohort was all wtf? when I sent him a draft of something or other, ragging on me for putting two spaces after a period. I told him two spaces was standard. He told me I was full of shit, and showed me so. Here, and also here. Christ, even the folks over at The Chicago Manual of Style agree, if you can catch them between fits of weeping over the knowledge that they’re just not as cool as MLA. I kid, I kid. Sort of.
I don’t care if they used to do it back in the day when you learned from Mavis Beacon or a typing class on typewriters instead of computers or if you’re just used to it. Guess what? Printers used to put the first word of the following page at the bottom of each and every page, and we don’t do that anymore. Because it’s pointless. They also used monospace fonts back in the day. Now, with proportionately-spaced fonts, type just looks better in general, and it is unnecessary to have two spaces after a period.
I changed. It took a lot, believe me. Every person who types a lot has typing quirks, and disrupting one’s usual use of spaces is a huge fucking pain. But I changed. You should change too, for a number of reasons.
One, it’s correct.
Two, it’s correct.
And three, other than the fact that it’s correct, it’s also a nice gesture.
Why? Because everything you do on your end, as a writer, to make your manuscript perfect– or at least conform to publishing standards– makes less work for editors and publishers of your work, and thus is really awesome. Now, if you refuse to change your typing habits, and believe you me I understand this, then just, at the end of working on a project, do a find/replace, substituting one space for two. It can be done in one fell swoop, just replace all. This way, if some poor soul is formatting and inputting work for publication in one of the many, many online venues, they won’t do all the work that is associated with that, only to catch anachronistic spacing at the last minute and then be faced with the prospect of either combing through the story to manually excise the improper spaces, or exporting the story to MS Word (possibly losing a lot of the formatting they’ve done already) and re-importing it with the spacing corrected.
I now view using single spaces after periods as just part of the proofreading process, an author-end activity the same as correcting comma splices or poor grammar. It’s professional, it’s courteous, it’s (in general, but always always check your target magazine’s rules) correct. Unlike having your work in Standard Manuscript Format, which generally corrects into Online Publishing Format (explained by the kind folks at Cabinet des Fées here), having two spaces after your period is an annoyance for editors, especially nit-picky neurotic editors, like–well, like me. And others, trust me on this.
It’s not really a stylistic decision any longer, like, say, the Oxford comma (which you’ll have pry out of my writing with a silver crowbar, heretics!). It’s just not in general considered standard. And it will likely be edited out of your work anyways, without any sort of remorse on the part of the editor.
The times, they aren’t a’changin’ in regards to this. They’ve changed.