word spacesExactly one at a time

The word space has ex­actly one pur­pose: to cre­ate hor­i­zon­tal clear­ance be­tween two words. Like­wise, the space bar has ex­actly one pur­pose: to in­sert a sin­gle word space.

word spacespace barspace barspace bar

Don’t use the space bar as a gen­eral-pur­pose white-space dis­penser by hold­ing it down and watch­ing the cur­sor glide across the screen. Though it may be a calm­ing sight, it leads to an­guish when for­mat­ting the doc­u­ment. Use ex­actly one word space at a time.

by the way
  • HTML sup­ports a char­ac­ter called a thin space ( ) which is roughly half the width of a word space. A thin space can be use­ful in sit­u­a­tions where a stan­dard word space seems too large, for in­stance af­ter the pe­ri­ods in W. A. Dwig­gins.

  • If you thought that was the limit of word-space geek­ery, think again. Pro­fes­sional page-lay­out pro­grams have even more choices. Adobe In­De­sign, for in­stance, sup­ports the thin space, but also the third space, quar­ter space, sixth space, flush space, hair space, fig­ure space, and punc­tu­a­tion space.

  • If you ap­prove of smaller word spaces in some sit­u­a­tions, why do you in­sist on only one space be­tween sen­tences, where a larger gap might be use­ful?” Be­cause you’re al­ready get­ting a larger gap. A sen­tence-end­ing word space typ­i­cally ap­pears next to a pe­riod. A pe­riod is mostly white space. So vi­su­ally, the space at the end of a sen­tence al­ready ap­pears larger than a sin­gle word space. No need to add another.