Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Consistent Spacing.

Consistent Spacing

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 10, 2020)

15

There is an unwritten rule in typesetting that there should only be one space after the end of a sentence. This provides the best visual appearance on a printed page, particularly when using proportional typefaces. The problem is that it is easy to add additional spaces at the end of a sentence without even realizing it. The following macro, CheckSpaces, is a tool you can use to double-check the end of your sentences:

Sub CheckSpaces()
    Call MakeChanges("Normal", ".")
    Call MakeChanges("Normal", "!")
    Call MakeChanges("Normal", ":")
End Sub
Sub MakeChanges(StyName As String, PuncMark As String)
    Selection.HomeKey Unit:=wdStory
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Style = ActiveDocument.Styles(StyName)
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    With Selection.Find
        .Text = PuncMark & "   "
        .Replacement.Text = PuncMark & " "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
    Selection.Find.Text = PuncMark & "  "
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
End Sub

CheckSpaces will only take extra spaces out of paragraphs formatted with the Normal style. This ensures you won't mess up formatting in tables or other design elements where you may want extra spaces after periods. If you want to change the type of punctuation searched for, or search in different style paragraphs, add additional calls to MakeChanges after the fourth line in the macro.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9695) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Consistent Spacing.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments

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What is three less than 5?

2020-09-10 12:57:33

Ken Kast

Better late than never. Here's the modified code to loop till all multiple spaces are eliminated.

Sub MakeChanges(StyName As String, PuncMark As String)
Dim FoundSpaces As Boolean

FoundSpaces = True
Selection.HomeKey Unit:=wdStory
Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
Selection.Find.Style = ActiveDocument.Styles(StyName)
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = PuncMark & " "
.Replacement.Text = PuncMark & " "
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = True
While FoundSpaces
.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
FoundSpaces = .Found
Wend
End With
End Sub

The other thing I was thinking is that not only should ? be added as a sentence ender, but also closing single and double quotes.


2020-09-10 11:36:42

Malcolm Patterson

As noted by others, many authorities have weighed in on this topic. In addition to those already cited, there is the Government Publishing Office Style Manual and the Gregg Reference Manual.

I would suggest adding

Call MakeChanges("Normal", ")")
Call MakeChanges("Normal", "?")

The first of these is needed because parenthetical sentences are entirely enclosed by parentheses, including all terminal punctuation. The second line is needed because question marks do appear, albeit infrequently (even in technical writing).

It's hard to imagine a case where multiple spaces cannot be replaced with a better alternative for positioning text: paragraph styles. (The same is true for multiple tabs.) Finding and fixing all such instances can be labor intensive, but if done correctly it creates a document that is easier to maintain.



A better solution is to use the add-in from Intelligent Editing: PerfectIt removes extra spaces with a single click.

Going from one space to two is far more difficult. Periods are used at the end of customary abbreviations and after initials. Unless a period happens to be at the end of an independent clause, inserting two spaces is not correct.


2015-04-23 16:48:13

Gordon Woerner

Why go to the trouble of a macro when, in the "Home" tab, by clicking on the button with the paragraph symbol in the paragraph bar, the hidden formatting symbols are revealed? I ALWAYS type with the formatting revealed to avoid spaces, etc. I didn't intend.


2015-03-31 09:45:09

Greg Toland

Jessica,

You've just made me realise that I'm wasting electrons by leaving two spaces :-)


2015-03-31 09:23:12

Jennifer Thomas

Ken Kast - can you please provide the loop macro you mentioned as a new comment? That sounds like it would work better in our environment ... thanks in advance for your time.


2015-03-30 10:08:39

Jessica Letteney

One space after a period is a written rule, documented in the two primary style guides in use in the US: AP Style Book and the Chicago Manual of Style. All of the style guides based on those two also advocate for one space (Turabian, MLA, etc.). In addition to being "by the book," the use of one space can save paper in long documents.
Users that want to use a non-macro solution can use Ctrl+H and search/replace two spaces with one (run it multiple time to also get the instances in which 3 spaces have been inserted).


2015-03-30 10:02:25

Patti

Back when I learned to type in high school, 2 spaces was the rule. A lot of people say that with newer fonts now, you can't tell if there are 1 or 2 spaces at the end of a sentence, but I can definitely tell. Sentences just look too smushed together with just 1 space so I'll continue to use 2 spaces for as long as I can type.


2015-03-30 07:48:06

Greg Toland

Glad we have a nice consistent rule around this then!

I think I will continue to stick with the TWO space rule. I probably do lots of other punctuation and spelling variations that are not 'by the book'.


2015-03-30 04:00:51

Andrew Evans

All the trained typists I spoke to stated it had to be TWO spaces at the end of the sentence and that is the rule I stick to, whether it be in an email or a document. You can of course have Word check this for you as part the proofing - you can set it to either 1, 2 or do not check. If you look it up on the Internet you will find many an article debating which is right or wrong - but in the end it will be down to your personal preference or even your company standards, I prefer the two - I feel a single space loses the full stop.


2015-03-30 01:19:45

Yateendra Joshi

Hello Greg,

> I learned to always put TWO spaces
> after a full stop or similar
> punctuation. Not sure why that rule,
> perhaps unwritten as well, came about
> and when it changed to ONE space.

That was in the days of Courier and other typewriter-like, or monospaced, fonts, in which all characters -- including the space character -- were of the same width.
The logic was to separate one word from the next with one space and one sentence from the next with two spaces.
Now that we have proportionate fonts (I, l, 1, etc. are narrow whereas W and M are wide), it is better to dispense with the extra space after the full stop (period).
The latest edition of the American Psychological Association's Publications Manual, however, in its latest (6th) edition, has gone back to recommending two spaces.
---Yateen <yateendra.joshi@gmail.com>


2015-03-29 08:52:08

maggie reed

When first learning word processing I was taught to always leave two spaces at the end of a sentence, and now text is not "correct" for me without the two paces.


2015-03-29 08:28:49

Greg Toland

As someone who was taught to type a long time ago by a secretary on a manual typewriter I learned to always put TWO spaces after a full stop or similar punctuation. Not sure why that rule, perhaps unwritten as well, came about and when it changed to ONE space.


2015-03-28 21:14:51

VeryJoyful

Ken -- good suggestion. I'm not a coder...could you provide the code needed to create that loop? Thanks!


2015-03-28 21:11:29

VeryJoyful

I could only make this work by removing the "three spaces" used to indent the command lines. I also added a call for "?"

I sometimes mistype and add a period after an exclamation mark. Is there a way to search for double punctuation marks and to retain only the first? and to allow user to specify certain exceptions like ".," such as used with e.g.,


2015-03-28 13:54:27

Ken Kast

This macro assumes there are no more than three spaces after the punctuation mark. One can handle any number of spaces by creating a loop testing on the value returned by Find.Execute. Each pass through the loop tries to replace two spaces with one, until there are no replacements. It's probably slightly less efficient, but takes care of any number of spaces.


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