Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. 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: An Automatic Two Spaces after a Period.

An Automatic Two Spaces after a Period

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 13, 2015)

40

Tom asked if there is a way to configure Word so it automatically places two spaces after each period, as can be done in WordPerfect. It is interesting that every time a question about inter-sentence spacing comes up, I receive a flurry of messages indicating either that two spaces is a good idea or that two spaces represents poor form.

I'm not going to get into considerations of what is right or wrong when it comes to spacing between sentences. There are, quite honestly, good reasons to do such spacing, and equally good reasons to not do it. (Tom, I trust you will make your own educated decision about whether two spaces after a period is really necessary in this day and age.)

That being said, the purpose of this tip is to explain how you can adjust your typing for the spacing you prefer. Word does not provide an "automatic two spaces" setting, as is available in WordPerfect. There are still things you can do, however.

First of all, you can configure Word's grammar checker to flag any end-of-sentence spacing that doesn't match your preferences. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click the Proofing option at the left side of the dialog box.
  3. Click the Settings button. Word displays the Grammar Settings dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Grammar Settings dialog box.

  5. Use the Spaces Required Between Sentences drop-down list to indicate how many spaces you prefer between your sentences.
  6. Click on OK to close the Grammar Settings dialog box.
  7. Click on OK to close the Word Options dialog box.

Now the grammar checker will flag any sentences that don't conform to your preference with a green wavy underline. When you then right-click on the flagging, you can choose to correct the spacing for that occurrence.

If you want to do mass replacements of your end-of-sentence spacing, the best thing to do is to use the search and replace features of Word. The techniques to do this have been covered in other issues. For those of you who want to automate the process of using search and replace, the following VBA macro is quite handy. It will replace any number of spaces at the end of a sentence with two spaces:

Sub TwoSpaces()
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    With Selection.Find
        .Text = "([.\?\!]) {1,}"
        .Replacement.Text = "\1  "
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = False
        .MatchWildcards = True
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
End Sub

If you want to alter the macro so that it ensures all your sentences have only a single space at the end, you can simply change the .Replacement.Text line so there is only one space in the replacement string. Another thing to note about this macro is that it corrects any sentences ending in a period, question mark, or exclamation point; it will not catch and correct any sentences that end in a quote mark.

Finally, just in case you are curious, you cannot effectively use AutoCorrect to change end-of-sentence spacing. Why? Because AutoCorrect uses the space character as a signal to trigger checking what was just typed. Thus, AutoCorrect entries cannot utilize spaces, so you cannot use AutoCorrect to search for a period followed by a space and replace it with a period followed by two spaces. You can, if you desire, cause AutoCorrect to replace every period you type with a period followed by two spaces, but this can lead to some very bizarre typing experiences. Try it, if you want, but you will probably delete the "replace periods with a period and two spaces" entry shortly after the try.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10775) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: An Automatic Two Spaces after a Period.

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 more than 5?

2017-06-24 10:23:32

Paula

Very helpful - thank you. APA 6th ed. requires 2 spaces after the end punctuation.


2017-04-26 05:47:25

Sean Croyston

Thank you, used to be easy to find, now a bit difficult, but you made it easy, thanks :)


2017-03-12 10:12:08

Moray

Monicat, maybe you could make an AutoCorrect for 5 spaces followed by some unusual character, say #? You could put that at the start of each paragraph, then backspace over the # to start the content - or leave the #s in till the end, and remove them with a Find and replace.
Good luck with it


2017-02-07 00:38:01

Monicat

I have a challenge. I am an MT (medical transcriptionist), and I have a certain report/facility that I have to do often. Because of issues loading this note to the EMR with incompatibility and misalignment, I have to put 5 blank spaces in front of each new paragraph. These notes can be hugely long and I am often second guessing if I actually put 5 spaces, or is that 4, or it looks like 6. I am trying to find a way to make a macro in Word 10 to take care of this, like a key board command such as Cntl + 5, but it seems it will not replace it with blank spaces. Any ideas on this?


2016-08-15 11:32:28

nbeiii

I used this setting in Word 2013 (to find and point out two spaces at the end of sentences from my older documents). The feature has disappeared in Word 2016 (or whatever version is provided to users of Office 365 subscriptions). This was very useful to me, I wish MS would put it back in. Not sure why it would have been dropped.


2016-08-10 12:29:06

Moto

A useful macro, but is has some problems. Sequences such as U.S. DOE get double spaced, as does No. 45, but they should not.


2016-08-11 10:20:57

gruntledlark

Scott Reno, I'm pretty sure that's how most standards and conventions work


2016-02-28 14:12:19

mtnail

I am having the same issue, only needing one space after the end of a sentence. Does anyone know how to set up a grammar check on Word Professional 2016? It won't allow me to add ". " and replace with ". " to the find and replace option under settings.


2016-02-08 09:30:13

Paul Franklin Stregevsky

@Jeanne Tarrants, these tips are intended for users of Word for Windows. Are you by chance using Word for Macintosh?


2016-02-07 10:58:06

Jeanne Tarrants

Except, when I get to the box in line 3 of your instructions, under 'writing style' I only have one option... 'GRAMMAR'
And it doesn't give the three lines after 'Require'... it starts at 'Grammar' with check-boxes only. I called tech support, who gave the the same instructions you did, then he spent an hour rooting around on my computer and ended up showing me that if I leave NO spaces, Word will show the error.
I want it to show the green line when I use TWO spaces.
I have Office 365 and it was updated recently.
Why pay annually when I have better results with the one-time purchase and an older version?


2016-02-01 11:04:12

Paul Franklin Stregevsky

@Bob_WA, Are you seeing the green squiggle below each "1-space" spacing? If not, try this fix:

1. Select File > Options > Proofing.
2. Make sure the checkbox to "Hide grammar errors in this document only" is cleared.
3. Click OK.

If that doesn't work, then for each paragraph style where the green squiggle is missing:

1. Select Modify...> Format > Language....
2. Make sure that the checkbox labeled "Do not check spelling or grammar" is cleared.
3. Click OK.

By the way, I've added two handy checkboxes to my Quick Action Toolbar: Hide Grammar Errors and Hide Spelling Errors. If either box is checked, I immediately "Select All" and uncheck it.


2016-02-01 10:39:55

Scott Renz

Bob_WA:
It means the gruntledlarks of the world have had the loudest voices and have taken over the industry of writing and inflicted their way on the rest of the world.


2016-01-31 10:38:31

Bob_WA

Two observations:
(1) Word 2010 (on Windows) does have the option of setting two spaces after a period. Go to menu File / Options / Proofing / Settings / "Spaces required between sentences" [2]
(2) Although this is listed under the heading "Grammar settings", when I do a Spelling and Grammar check on my document it doesn't make this change.

Does anybody know why?


2015-10-09 05:32:19

CC Hogan

The facility to choose the number of spaces after a period has been removed from Word 2016. Sadly.


2015-09-02 12:25:31

awyatt

Jamie: This site is written specifically for the Windows version of Word. On the Mac, you should, instead, go to Word (on the menu at the top of the screen) and click Preferences.

-Allen


2015-09-02 10:47:10

Jamie

What about MS Office for Mac? I'm not finding "options" under the file tab.


2015-07-19 08:02:56

Vic

One space v. two: http://practicaltypography.com/one-space-between-sentences.html

Frankly, it's not easier to read with two spaces--it's just what you are used to. After a while, you'll get used to one space. Also, find and replace in MS Word two spaces for one space works like a charm. I'm not sure how much better the macro will be at this task, but it's cool to have.


2015-06-18 10:27:23

Scott Renz

And if the Inquisition says that the earth is the center of the universe from now on, then by golly, Galileo, it is. Now, go to your room and stay there you pathetic wretch of a “free thinker.” How dare you defy us? Don’t answer that. It was rhetorical.


2015-06-18 07:43:46

gruntledlark

Evidently this server DOES automatically strip out extra spaces b/w sentences.


2015-06-18 07:41:50

gruntledlark

Not trying to give anyone a hard time. I had also thought that HTML would condense the spaces so I tried it on one of my own servers and found that it allowed the extra spaces there. I just added some extra space before this sentence to see how this server handles it, but either way, it kind of goes to the original point - only use one space b/w sentences. If a modern technology (well, more modern than a mono-spaced typewriter) like HTML strips out your extra spaces then maybe that's a sign of what is accepted practice.


2015-06-17 11:19:13

awyatt

Gruntled lark: Don't give Rick a hard time about single spaces in his comment. Even if you type in multiple spaces, HTML collapses them all, automatically, to a single space.

-Allen


2015-06-17 09:20:43

gruntledlark

Rick, I almost forgot to ask - did you seriously write a comment supporting 2 spaces after a period but used only a single space after each period? Are you trolling me :)


2015-06-17 09:04:24

gruntledlark

Not trying to be dismissive here, Rick, but maybe, if you find text hard to read w/o the extra space, you should schedule a visit to your optometrist. You can also hold down the CTRL key and roll your mouse wheel to enlarge the text to a more comfortable size. My eyes are approaching 60 and I see the the transitions b/w sentences just fine. I'm not bragging, but my point is that you shouldn't encourage non-standard techniques simply to accommodate your shortcomings.

The fact is every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.)

What about the text in the Tip above? Is that hard to read? b/c it is written w/o extra spaces b/w the sentences. The point I'm trying to make is that the standard for professional writing is ONE space after a period. If you continue to use 2 spaces, you mark yourself as a dinosaur unwilling to upgrade your skills and knowledge.


2015-06-16 10:59:26

Rick

gruntledlark, It does not matter if two spaces were used on old typewriters or not. It is EASIER TO READ text with two spaces after a period. That is all that matters. That is especially true if your eyesight is not perfect or if the resolution is not great. Periods are small and are easier to see when followed by two spaces. There is no disadvantage to having two spaces between sentences.


2015-06-07 14:32:19

Rachel H.

I have found that in Word 2013 you can simply go into the replace option and in the find box hit space twice, then in the replace box hit space once and then hit the replace all button and it will change all the two spaces to one, or vice versa. I would only recommend using this for the two to one transition though considering one space is often intentional in abbreviations and other contexts.


2015-06-04 09:41:32

Scott Renz

Lisa O: Only use the macro when it is a sentence ending period. Otherwise, just press the period key.


2015-06-04 09:39:44

Scott Renz

I find it easier to read and make sense of what I am reading, if there are two spaces after a period that ends a sentence making it apparent that it was a sentence and that the sentence has ended. Often it is hard to see whether it is a comma or a period that is following a word.


2015-06-03 15:35:36

Lisa O

Won't a macro for two spaces after a period also put two spaces after abbreviations and other periods that don't end a sentence? Ms. Otis regrets . . .


2015-04-01 11:44:27

gruntledlark

Lisagd, I'd love to refer to the style guide, but it's a pile of crap written by a committee of managers who have never written a technical document in their life. I've offered to rewrite it for them and actually, they'd rather have me own it, but I'm a contractor here (for 7 years now) and I only work on projects that can be billed to a customer - no overhead.

As for 2 spacers, although it's not supposed to happen I have seen where the extra space shows up at the beginning of a line occasionally, thereby throwing off the LH margin.

IMO, continuing to use typewriter conventions in a digital format is what is lazy.


2015-04-01 09:16:22

Maryland, USA

Amazing that readers are opining on "1 space" vs. "2 spaces" even though Allen wrote "every time a question about inter-sentence spacing comes up, I receive a flurry of messages indicating either that two spaces is a good idea or that two spaces represents poor form."


2015-04-01 09:14:39

Maryland, USA

Diane wrote: "In Microsoft Word 2010 you can set an automatic spacing after a period." All that does is tell Word to underline the undesired sentence spacing with a green squiggle. it can't prevent it. Nor can it automatically correct it in text that's already in place or that you will copy over.

You can prevent the "wrong" sentence spacing as you type if you use WordPerfect, LibreOffice, FrameMaker, and SoftMaker Office: If you set it for "one space," nothing will happen when you press the spacebar again. If you set it for "two spaces" and then accidentally type just one followed by another character, the second will quietly be inserted. Is that so hard, Microsoft?


2015-03-31 20:43:52

Penny

Just use common! Forget "techniques might have advanced in the 40 + years" etc comments. If it looks crammed and makes it hard to read, make it 2 spaces. Simple.


2015-03-31 09:56:40

lisagd

gruntledlark, that's when you whip out the style guide your company uses!


2015-03-31 09:43:06

Scott Renz

Two spaces after the period is proper. One space after the period is for lazy people.


2015-03-31 09:19:08

gruntledlark

As a professional technical writer w/ over 30 years experience I often review my documents w/ "subject matter experts." Most are glad to have my help and defer to my judgement on most questions that don't relate specifically to technical accuracy. However there are those few who think they know EVERYTHING better since they are the SME.
As a matter of course, when I receive text from someone to include in my documents one of the first things I do is strip the 2 spaces after periods.

It's ONE space after a period, people. We're not using Underwood typewriters here.

Anyway, during one particular review, the SME noticed that there "wasn't enough space after one of the periods." I told him that current convention is to use a single space. He insisted that he "learned to use 2 spaces" when he was in school.

Now, since he was a Principal Engineer and I was only the technical writer (with actual training and field experience in the industry) he assumed that was the end of the discussion.

I looked at him and calmly reminded him that techniques might have advanced in the 40 + years since he'd been in high school. I then proceeded to tell him about proportional and non-proportional fonts and the original reason for the 2 space rule. He wasn't convinced and wanted me to do a global S/R to put the 2 spaces in. I said no and all of his peers in the room told him to listen to me.

I've made this my profession and I keep up with the changes and trends. SME's have their job to do. I have mine.
</rant>


2015-02-14 07:31:38

Millard F. Mann

If you use APA style, it was one space after a sentence but with the 6th edition of the style manual, it is two spaces.


2014-07-13 16:51:22

Diane

In Microsoft Word 2010 you can set an automatic spacing after a period. Go to file; options; proofing; writing style settings and you can set it there.


2014-03-05 10:05:03

James

Word 2010, you can set the auto correct to do this. Got to file, Options, Proofing, AutoCorrectOptions,Under Replace as you type set "Replae" with a ".", wunder "With" type ". with two spaces"


2012-07-09 05:35:23

shashank avhad

The macro for adding two spaces after periods is not wotking in 2007


2012-07-04 12:45:37

Robert Michael McKenna

Thanks... Something that easy had me so baffled


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