Spaces After Periods

Republished from the May 7th 2018 Newsletter.

There was a study floating around this past week about how using two periods after spaces was actually correct because they did a Science about it. Unfortunately, the study was about some specific circumstances where it might be true and then the “reporting” morphed that into “Always use two now!”

Turns out…

@VGR on Twitter:

“Most notably, the test subjects read paragraphs in Courier New, a fixed-width font similar to the old typewriters, and rarely used on modern computers.”

Practicaltypography.com has a great overview of all the other issues with drawing some vast conclusion on who is RIGHT forever and ever from this study:

Are two spaces better than one? | Butterick’s Practical Typography

“True, the re­searchers found that putting two spaces af­ter a pe­riod de­liv­ered a “small” but “sta­tis­ti­cally … de­tectable” im­prove­ment in read­ing speed—about 3%—but cu­ri­ously, only for those read­ers who al­ready type with two spaces. For ha­bit­ual one-spac­ers, there was no ben­e­fit at all.”

I agree with them that studies like this are important to do. They often don’t surface new information that typographers don’t already know, but sometimes they do!

More broadly: typography should always be about legibility first. Once that it satisfied we can have a number of fun discussions and arguments about the design of it. It’s gotta be readable though. I personally think that modern variable width fonts are very good at handling spacing issues automatically for you though.