Punctuation and Double Spacing – The age-old debate


There are some topics that divide opinion. Topics that create a debate. The ongoing conversation about whether to leave one space or two at the end of a sentence is one of them. In this post I’m going to tackle this issue to see if we can find a solution. Who is right and who is just plain wrong?

In theory…

Today I’m looking at a recent study from Skidmore College, where the discussion about single or double sacing was recently reopened. First let’s check out the pros of having two spaces at the end of a sentence.

An Associate Professor from the Department of Psychology at Skidmore is a firm proponent. She believes that two spaces after a full stop helps readers in processing the text more easily. She argues that taking away this extended space reduces our ability to read fluently.

There is some evidence to back this up. A university study found that individuals read 3% more quickly when two spaces were entered, rather than one. This is the equivalent of an extra 9 words per minute. Although this may not seem like a life-changing amount, over time it really adds up.

The camp against two spaces, whilst acknowledging this scientific study, still claim that two spaces doesn’t work for them. Many just don’t think it feels right. It detracts from the uniformity of text on the page.

Is this really important? Some believe it is. Modern times have introduced yet another quandary when it comes to text spacing decisions. What about Twitter? 😮

With social media squeezing us to communicate in as few characters as possible, two spaces simply seems wasteful. It’s all about optimisation of space and for that, two spaces just doesn’t work.

The reliability of the Skidmore study is questionable at best. It was done with a group of just 60 college student participants, which isn’t a representative sample. And more importantly, whilst the reading appeared to take place more quickly, there is no evidence that the meaning of the text was absorbed aequally effectively. Perhaps reading at a slower speed has advantages that haven’t been researched yet.

In practice… should we bother?

As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out. Neither the proponents nor the opponents have convined me there’s reason to be overly concerned with the number of spaces after your full stops or periods. Personally I am a single-space-girl, purely out of habit.

The reality is that some children are taught to leave single spaces, whilst others leave double spaces. Like they say: what is learned in the cradle is carried to the tomb. Most people will want to continue what they grew up with.

Fortunately Dragon speech recognition has been designed to accommodate both camps. Whether you wish to to have a single or a double space, Dragon can be programmed to automatically do either.

Single space is the default setting, but you can easily change the program to enter double spaces by going to the following options.

In the Dragon bar choose Tools and then Auto-Formatting options.

So go ahead and tweak Dragon to your liking, while the scientific debate rages on.



Janneke den Draak

Janneke den Draak

Hi, I'm Janneke and I'm your go-to person for Dragon and Apple speech recognition software help.

When I got severe repetitive strain injury issues over 20 years ago, I didn't want to give up using the computer. So I learned all about controlling the PC with speech recognition and dictating my documents and emails.

I've now been a speech recognition software trainer and consultant for almost two decades, teaching over 2000 people handsfree productivity!

My online courses for Apple Voice Control and Dragon offer self-paced learning and I also love running my membership for Dragon users. For those in need of an intensive training or custom speech command creation, I am available for one-on-one calls.

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