For decades, proponents of typing a single space after a period have waged a friendly war against their double-space adversaries on a virtual battlefield. Now, the battlefield itself is taking sides: Microsoft Word will start marking double spaces between sentences as an error.
The change is definitely a gradual one, and you probably won’t see it on your own computer just yet. According to The Verge, Microsoft has been testing the edit on the desktop version of Word, and they’ll begin rolling it out to all users in the near future. Once they do, you will still be able to opt out of it—as with other spelling and grammar recommendations from Microsoft’s Editor feature, you can choose to accept the change, ignore it once, or disable that particular suggestion altogether.
“As the crux of the great spacing debate, we know this is a stylistic choice that may not be the preference for all writers, which is why we continue to test with users and enable these suggestions to be easily accepted, ignored, or flat out dismissed in Editor,” Kirk Gregersen, a Microsoft partner director of program management, told The Verge.
But even if you choose to ignore the actual edit, it’s harder to ignore the winds of change that are raising the inevitable white flag of surrender higher and higher into the air, much to the dismay of the ever-dwindling league of double-spacers.
If you’re new to this strange, specific battle of wills, it’s probably because you started typing sometime after the turn of the century, when computers had already replaced typewriters. On a typewriter, each character takes up the same amount of horizontal space. That means narrow letters like i have quite a bit of extra space on either side of them. The uneven distribution makes it difficult to tell when a space before a new sentence is actually indicating a new sentence, or is just extra space from a small character. To cut down on confusion, people adopted the practice of typing two spaces after every period. The practice prevailed even when computers—with much more proportionally spaced fonts—became the norm, since people had already been so well-trained to hit the spacebar twice at the start of each sentence.
With the entire publishing industry moving toward a single space, and Microsoft now actively joining the effort, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before seeing a double space after a period will be just as rare as actually using a typewriter.
[h/t The Verge]