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One or Two Spaces After a Sentence? New Study Finds the ‘Right’ Answer

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We’ve all wondered at some point whether to put one or two spaces after a sentence while typing on our computer or mobile device. The rule used to be so simple: Back in the day of typewriters, it was necessary to put two spaces after each sentence on the page. Otherwise, the sentences would be crammed so close together that it’d be hard to read the text. But today, technology has advanced to include much more flexible font formatting across several devices. So it’s not shocking that the “rule” about spaces gets a little murkier now, leading people to pick sides — and to defend them fervently.

If you’re Team One Space, you’ve probably heard a lecture at least once about how you’re typing “wrong.” Or if you’re Team Two Spaces, you might’ve heard an exasperated explanation that you don’t “need” to do that. The debate has gotten so contentious that scientists actually got involved so they could find a real answer based on evidence. So in an April 2018 study, researchers recruited 60 volunteers and got some eye-tracking equipment to settle it once and for all. They had the students read 20 paragraphs while using an Eyelink 1000 Plus to record where they looked while reading. These paragraphs were written in a variety of styles, featuring not only one and two spaces, but also alternative combinations such as two spaces after commas and only one after periods. The volunteers included both self-proclaimed “one-spacers” and “two-spacers,” though there could be only one winner.

Fans of using two spaces will be ecstatic to know that this study is on their side. Sorry one-spacers, but the research showed that the two spaces after each sentence made the content slightly easier to read. However, if you’re still a dedicated one-space fan, it’s worth keeping in mind that there are a few caveats to this study. For one, the test used the font called Courier New, which is similar to the font used on old typewriters and is not often found on modern devices. On top of that, the actual benefits of using two spaces were pretty minimal in the study: reading speed only improved a bit for the folks who identified as two-spacers, and didn’t change for those who considered themselves to be one-spacers. Perhaps most importantly, reading comprehension was not affected either way for anyone.

In short: There’s no immediate need or reason to change your typing habits at this point — not that you were going to, anyway. (We sure weren’t!)

h/t Science Alert

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