Can my word processor insert two spaces automatically? | Proper Manuscript Format | William Shunn

Can my word processor insert two spaces automatically?

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A reader writes to ask:

Quick question - as a new/aspiring writer, starting a manuscript, I'm curious to know if *you know* of a way to make it double spaced after each sentence. I'm used to writing documents that have only one space between sentences, but I perfectly understand the need for two for a submission manuscript.

Any tricks you've found with Office Word that make it automatically two spaces for a single hit of the space bar?

I'm not aware of any feature in Word, or in any other word processor, that would do what you want. Most word processors can easily be set to perform the opposite conversion—two spaces collapsed automatically to one—but determining where the end of a sentence falls is a very tricky programming problem that would fall prey to frequent errors.

More to the point, though, why on earth would you want a feature like that? Yes, two spaces after a sentence are still acceptable in most manuscript submissions, as I've endlessly argued, but that convention is quickly going the way of the dodo. If you're not already in the habit of putting two manual spaces at the end of each sentence, there's no reason for you to go out of your way to do it. Stop worrying about spaces and just focus on your writing.

4 Comments

I was just wondering about this. Thanks for the answer!
I love your site so far, it's been extremely helpful and I've only been looking around for a few minutes!

This can be handled by doing a find/replace after you've written your document. Use the word processor's "find" command to locate all cases where a period is followed by a space. Replace that with a period followed by two spaces. The word processor should automatically double-space all your sentences for you. I don't know of any modern word processor that lacks the find/replace functionality, but its location will vary among programs and versions.

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