Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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 September 16, 2017)

9

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 and later versions 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. Scroll through the options until you find the Spaces Required Between Sentences drop-down list or the Space Between Sentences drop-down list. (The wording will vary by version of Word and the setting may be quite a ways down in the dialog box.)
  6. Use the drop-down list to indicate how many spaces you prefer between your sentences.
  7. Click on OK to close the Grammar Settings dialog box.
  8. 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 capabilities 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.

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 (10775) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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 5 + 2?

2018-04-24 20:33:43

Ginene Tiberio Pound

Thank you! Very helpful.


2018-03-30 08:30:28

Annette Carlson

Thanks Daniel. You're assuming we untrustworthy writers have a say in what the company dictates we use in the company style. Yes, you're right about the one-space is "correct" imho, however there are situations out here in the working world where being right doesn't matter... what matters is simply who's left. and that I would like to keep my paycheck flowing, I need to find a way to make the tediousness of my job just a wee bit more efficient.


2018-03-29 22:30:28

Daniel

There are not good reasons to do such spacing. Such spacing is wrong. A tab after a sentence is exactly as correct as any number of spaces that is not one and I don't trust you as a writer for saying anything different.

Reason being: Strunk and White, AP style, Chicago style, Blue Book legal style. Not one authority supports two spaces. Every authority, in fact, approaches two spaces with either skepticism or flat out repulsion and to pretend there are equally compelling arguments on both sides is like saying flat earthers have a point: one side is correct and the other is flatly wrong.

That said, the question is not how to automatically set up Microsoft word to place two spaces after punctuation but rather, how long until Microsoft formally puts their little green "grammar error" line beneath anything but one.


2018-03-17 05:40:37

Ken Endacott

There is no easy solution. My suggestion is to use a macro to check sentences one by one and if the last word in the sentence, stripped of the delimiter character and trailing spaces, is a single character or numeric or is a specific word such Dr or etc as then ask the user for a decision, otherwise set two spaces.


2018-03-16 11:07:51

Annette Carlson

good tip!

(Don and Jay) re: unwanted extra spaces...
As I've considered this dilemna... I've tried search: "period-one-space" replace with: "period-two-spaces" with the same unwanted extra spaces in places where they don't belong: Dr., Mr., Mrs., numbers-with-decimals, equations, etc.

one thought is search: "period-one-space-Use_wildcards+format_AllCaps" replace with: "period-two-spaces" but that's not working too well. (hmmm I wonder whether using * as the wildcard with format as initialcap would work)

If anyone comes up with another approach, let me know! thanks


2018-02-07 15:05:15

Don Faison

Thank you, very useful, saved me a lot of time; even though I had to go back and fix 'Dr. Smith' and 'e.g. this and that'. I don't see a way to avoid the Dr. correction (easy enough to search for), but is there a way to avoid adding the second space if the letter immediately following the period and one space is lowercase? I use lots of n.a., i.e., e.g., etc. I tried to modify the macro but Microsoft instruction are poor and I wasn't able to modify it myself.


2017-09-27 01:05:36

Jim

Word 2007
I needed this fix. Wrote a book and then found that I wasn't consistent with the double space after period. BUT I did what this post says and the grammar checker won't find errors I make intentionally, testing it. Not sure why.
So I made punctuation visible and then I am scanning every period to make sure there are 2 dots after it. Tedious but necessary...I'll be more careful next time!


2017-09-16 15:56:26

Jay

Also be aware that if you use abbreviations within a sentence (Mr., Mrs., etc.) you will get an unwanted space after.


2017-09-16 07:54:30

VJ

If you add the following code to the above macro [before the "End Sub" line]; then sentences ending in a period followed by a double-quote-mark) would also have two spaces added after the quote mark.

And, of course, the same code duplicated and the Replacement.Text line modified for a question mark and/or exclamation mark, would double-space after 'question-quotes' and/or 'exclamation quotes'.

'
' TwoSpacesAfterQuote Section
' Make sure there are two spaces after a sentence ending with a double quote mark.
'
Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "."" "
.Replacement.Text = "."" "
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchWildcards = True
End With
Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll


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