Breaking the Habit: Why Over 40s Use Two Spaces After a Period and How to Adapt

Introduction to Typographic Traditions

In the realm of typography, debates can often take unexpectedly passionate turns, especially when they touch upon long-established habits. For instance, space usage after a period ignites a particular brand of controversy. Enthusiasts who have spent a significant portion of their lives utilizing typewriters or older word processing programs often defend the use of two spaces after a full stop. However, to many individuals, especially those under the age of 40, the extra space seems like a peculiar anachronism.

The Historical Context of Spacing

To fully understand this typographical practice, one must venture back to the era of mechanical typewriters. Characters in these machines were monospaced; that is, they occupied the same amount of horizontal space. A skinny ‘i’ took up as much room as a wide ‘m’. The result was uneven visual spacing between characters, leading to a text that wasn’t always easy on the eyes. To mitigate this, typists adopted the convention of inserting two spaces after periods, which aided in signaling the end of a sentence more conspicuously.

As technology evolved, however, so did typography. The advent of digital word processors and typefaces brought proportional fonts, where each character only uses as much horizontal space as necessary. As a consequence, the need for double spacing diminished. Yet, for those who had already ingrained the habit, the transition was not as swift, birthing a generational divide in typing practices.

The Argument for Single Spacing

The Modern Standard

In today’s digital-first landscape, most style guides, including the venerable Chicago Manual of Style and the APA Publication Manual, advise using a single space after periods. This recommendation fosters cleaner-looking, more readable text and aligns with the capabilities of modern typesetting and font design.

Efficiency and Aesthetics

Beyond adherence to style guides, proponents of single spacing highlight its efficiency and aesthetic superiority. Less space equals less time and fewer keystrokes – a minimalist approach to typing, if you will. From a design standpoint, single spacing maintains text rhythm and color, a term designers use to describe the overall tone and texture of a page of text.

The Case for Keeping the Extra Space

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Conversely, individuals who stand by double spacing after a period often argue from a standpoint of habit and clarity. Having learned to type in this manner, they find it difficult to break the pattern. Furthermore, they maintain that the additional space provides a visual pause, assisting readers in parsing text more efficiently, although this claim is often disputed by typographers and designers.

Generational Comfort

Comfort with particular conventions can also be a significant factor in this debate. For those who adopted their typing practices in the era of typewriters or early word processors, the two-space rule was an indelible part of learning to type. Herein lies a blend of muscle memory and visual familiarity that creates a sense of ease and correctness for many seasoned typists.

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The Impact of Auto-formatting

Modern writing software often takes a stance in this spacing skirmish by auto-formatting. Programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs are typically set by default to subtly correct double spaces to single ones, pushing users towards the modern convention, much to the chagrin of some.

The Role of Design Software

When it comes to publication and design software such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator, professional typographers and designers almost exclusively use single spacing. Such software is built with a keen eye for typography and often follows design standards that favor efficiency and aesthetics over traditional typist training.

Changing Norms in Digital Communication

The issue of spacing after periods isn’t just about word processors or design software. In the fast-paced world of digital communication, efficiency reigns supreme. Text messages, tweets, and other forms of quick digital interactions predominantly follow the practice of single spacing, further reinforcing its status as the norm for younger generations of tech users.

Pedagogical Shifts

What are schools teaching? Typing classes and curricula have largely transitioned to the single space method, signaling an institutional shift that will have long-term effects on typing practices. The next generation of typists will likely view double spacing as a relic of the past.

Conclusion: Is it Really About Age?

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Ultimately, while the use of two spaces after a period may be seen as a hallmark of the over-40 demographic, it’s less about age and more about the era and the technology in which one learned to type. Despite this, the trend is unquestionably moving toward the single space convention. As digital natives enter the workforce and style guides continue to favor single spacing, it becomes increasingly clear that double spacing after periods will continue to wane in popularity, remembered as a vestige of the typewriter age.


  • Chicago Manual of Style: The definitive guide for proper spacing in published work.
  • APA Publication Manual: The manual used widely in academia, endorsing single spacing after periods.
  • Typewriters and their Impact on Spacing: Exploring how monospaced fonts influenced typing practices.