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One space or two…

March 11, 2008

This perennial argument about one space or two after a punctuation mark (period, comma, etc.) pops up its head on tech writing and editing lists around the world with monotonous regularity. And it results in flame wars, the like of which put some of the religious conflicts to shame (well, I exaggerate, but you get the idea of the passion on both sides).

A quick Google for “one space or two” gives you well over 10,000 hits, so this argument is not going away any time soon.

The Chicago Manual of Style says one, the Australia Style Manual recommends one (6th edition, p117), but I’m not going to get in to the argument (just for the record, I use one).

For those who want to control what they or their colleagues use, Word has a setting that automatically adds the number of spaces that you want.

Word 2003

  1. Go to Tools > Options > Spelling & Grammar tab.
  2. Click Settings in the Grammar section.
  3. Change the Spaces required between sentences setting in the Require group. Your options are 1, 2, and don’t check.
  4. Click OK.

Word 2007

  1. Click the large Microsoft Office button in the top left corner, then click the Word Options button.
  2. Select Proofing, then go to the When correcting spelling and grammar in Word section.
  3. Click the Settings button.
  4. Change the Spaces required between sentences setting in the Require group. Your options are 1, 2, and don’t check.
  5. Click OK to close the Grammar Settings window, then click OK again to close the Word Options window.

You can also force a serial comma this way too (Comma required… setting), and specify whether punctuation falls inside or outside quote marks (Punctuation required… setting) .

You may not win many friends if you force these settings in your organization, but if you’re trying to break your own habits, then this could be one way to automate the process.

[Steps updated for Word 2007, 21 August 2008]

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