What “Two Spaces” Tells Me About You


If you put two spaces after a period in a sentence, it tells me that you learned to type on a typewriter. With the advent of word processors (and personal computers) people started using just one space after the period. I was totally unaware of this until a professional writer reviewed my resume (a friend…. don’t you dare think I paid someone hundreds of dollars to write a professional resume for me!)

So here you are with your Twitter account all tweeted up….and your Facebook account with dates carefully hidden and a profile picture of you from 15 years ago…and only the last 15 years showing on your LinkedIn profile and you think you have hidden your age. If you are in the habit of putting two spaces after every sentence, you might consider removing that extra space from your resume.  It is dating you.

My advice, make friends with a professional copy writer and have them review your resume. You will be amazed when they focus in on that one sentence that you thought read a tiny bit rough and say, “Why didn’t you say…” and they will come up with that perfect wording that has been evading you for months. They will also move those commas where they are supposed to go and fix your “there, their and they’re” errors (and remove that old-fashioned comma before the “and” in a list).

They will give your resume the face lift it needs.

—-UPDATE—-

This post has sparked quite a controversy. Some readers have flamed the narrow mindedness of a recruiter who would comb through a resume in such detail. However,  Google “resume typo” and see what you find. 25% of hiring managers will throw your resume in the trash if it has just one typo.

I was told by a local recruiter last November that she is not seeing any discrimination when it comes to hiring except for age discrimination. The problem is, older workers are stuck in the past and refuse to change. If your resume makes you look like you have not kept up with things, you are falling into that stereotype.

There have also been some questions as to if my statement is true. One reader indicated that the AP style still specifies two spaces after a period. I am no expert, but my friend specifically mentioned the AP style when she told me to remove the extra space.

Additionally, a reader made the following comment:

The same is now true in the publishing industry. Want your compelling manuscript instantly rejected? Insert two spaces at the end of each sentence.

—-Second UPDATE—-

A reader provided me with this article from Slate. The author is pretty emphatic that one space after a period is accurate.  http://www.slate.com/?id=2281146

James Snider
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James Snider is the Vice President of Business Development for Engstrom Trading, LLC. Engstrom imports products from Scandinavian countries and builds a market for them in the USA and Canada. http://TFXNonStickUSA.com View all posts by jamessnider

31 responses to “What “Two Spaces” Tells Me About You

  • Clay Forsberg

    James I love this post. I just switched two month to one space from two. I didn’t learn on a typewriter, but I just thought two spaces was appropriate. I learned otherwise. For someone who preaches change … I guess I realized I had do what I say.

    Thanks.

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  • Larry Scott

    Thanks for the tip. I’m changing my resumes to 1 space right now, and I did learn on a manual typewriter, not even an electric. Can recruiters tell whether I learned on a manual rather an electric????

  • Rusty Smith

    This is absolutely amazing. I was always taught there are two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence(and yes, it was a typewriter). I wonder how smart and experienced these younger kids are in negoiating 300 million dollar acquisitions, with a flock of 600.00 dollar an hour attorneys sitting in a conference room in Boston for 3 days, and then going to Federal Court to resolve a major dispute after the acquisition. Anyone that pays attention to this trite stuff, is not very confident in their ability as an executive manager. If you pay attention to this kind of dribble, maybe you need to space only once after the end of a sentence.

  • Paul Talbot

    If this is true, this is an illustration of the arbitrariness and laziness of any recruiter who would bounce a resume for this. I have never heard of pacing a single space after a period.

    • jamessnider

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for your comment. It was news to me as well. I checked on it and found the following (strongly worded) article from Slate (among other articles to support the punctuation). http://www.slate.com/?id=2281146
      Now, if this author’s frustration is merited, then perhaps we are in equal danger of following the AP rules…i.e. most people do not know this rule.

      Maybe this would only apply to people who are applying for jobs as writers.

      Thanks again,

      James Snider

  • Burton Strauss III

    Well… I’ve read a lot of resumes for the positions I’ve filled in the last ten months. I’m not looking for two periods, but I DO look for the basics of your personal presentation. If you don’t care enough to get the simple things right and consistent, then you probably don’t have the attention to detail I need from you.

    (And, yes, there are two periods after the 1st period – wondering if anyone looked :-))

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  • Matt pujol

    James, what if I modify the size of spaces after a period to be 1.5 space equivalents?

  • Matt pujol

    What if I write my resume as a series of tweets?

  • Kay McManus

    As a writer, I can say that the issue of the double space after the period changed at least 15 years ago, and it is a giveaway. Unless you change the default settings in the Word spell check, it will find most the double spaces for you. If you have a space before a symbol or number (in any document) and the spell check keeps honing in on that, change that to a fixed space.

    Anyway, double spaces after periods were used in magazine publishing and “desktop publishing” long after the typewriter, so heh, that youngster could have learned the double space then.

    However, the way to think about font characters today (without my bothering to revisit the exact terms for this) is that each proportional character sits in an invisible box, and of course the size of the character and the box change depending on the font and its size. So the period sits in a box in the lower left corner with plenty of white space built into the character. In fact, adding the double space is more than an annoyance. Given that we have no idea on what medium or at what size (including the variable of monitor and screen resolution sizes) the text will be read, the double space can look vary strange and scream that the writer is out of date. (Heh, you can still get away with putting two spaces after your state before the zip code if that makes you feel better. The rest of the double spaces will kill you.)

    I have taken over technical docs from writers who used two spaces, and it did speak volumes. And it’s irritating because it’s one more thing to clean up and the spell check doesn’t catch them all.

    That said, I can’t imagine the idiot recruiter who said there’s no discrimination other than age discrimination. Or maybe that’s just because the recruiter’s eyes are closed. First, I can’t worry about discrimination at all because it’s counterproductive. I just try to make sure I’ve checked for nose hairs, am wearing the appropriate contemporary “interview” earrings, and am not overdressed in “professional” clothes and shoes that a 30-year-old would consider pathetic.

    The following article was in the DMN yesterday. So I would not have responded to this except that the article jumped off the page at me in conjunction with this string. I couldn’t pull up the DMN article today, but happened to find it in the Miami Herald online. (I would not mention taking a newspaper in an interview; I’m not that much of a fool.)

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/21/2078071/men-bounce-back-faster-from-recessions.html

    “…
    In fact, men have gained 438,000 jobs since the Great Recession officially ended in July 2009, while women have lost 366,000 over the same period, according to Labor Department figures.

    And the 984,000 new jobs created from January 2010 to January 2011? Only 47,000 went to women.

    That’s less than 1 of every 20 new job openings.
    …”

    The article makes all of the obvious points about why this statistic would be the case, but I still think if I were being interviewed by three different men (as an example) and a man with exactly the same credentials and with no obvious differences were interviewed for the same position, the man would have a much better chance. But I was in management for years, so I don’t get my britches in a twist over it; it’s the way it is. Mens’ communication styles are the same, there’s a comfort level that exists among men in the workforce (you can take a company down and one of your buddies will hire you the next week), I do still think that men are perceived often incorrectly as the breadwinners for their family (even if the woman is single), etc. And I think the fact that only 2 percent of executives are women speaks to that point. I have watched many mid-level female managers be let go or passed over for little more than the fact that someone thought she was not a good fit.

    But about discrimination. I have a close black friend who won’t put her photo on LinkedIn so people can’t see she’s black. We all have to put one foot in front of the other and try not to think too much about our competitors and how we may be discrimated against.

    Okay, that’s my therapy for the week.

  • Scott Nokleby

    And you wonder why some older professionals are resistant to change when the change is most often just “form” to make it look new/invented in the last year, and most often even less “substance.” I sympathize but if you don’t change that perception, although unfair, you miss the train driven by a younger team that has no clue or interest what brilliant things you did even 10 years ago…that includes raising the dead. I am concerned about digital speak which is shortcutted, economized and truncated for speed of entry creeping rapidly in to formal writing.

    I will be unique and use 5 spaces after my damn periods. I expect people will catch up to me eventually as they look at my innovativeness.

  • Diane

    It’s not just older job seekers. I just finished a round of interviews with college graduates for an entry-level job in PR. Most of them used double spaces after the period. Since that is a big no-no with AP Stylebook, which every PR major better know, I was surprised to see it. I’m guessing they learned to type from someone older who is still set in their ways. I stopped using the double space in the late 80s with the advent of desktop publishing. It just wasn’t needed anymore. And I have to admit, it is a pet peeve of mine, especially considering the career I chose.

    • jamessnider

      I have recently discovered that many college professors (grad school, too) REQUIRE two space after the period on term papers.

      • Inhale, Exhale, Repeat

        I am young, I learned to type on a PC and I studied PR. Now I write and edit research papers in the technology industry. I’ve always used double spaces and so do my colleagues. I don’t believe this is an age issue as much as a mere ‘pickiness’ issue.

      • B Riley

        I’m 25 years old, and I definitely learned to write on a PC. I agree that I was influenced by people who may have learned on typewriters, but I’ve always put two spaces after a period, and I’ve never been corrected on it. I was intrigued by this article, and I’d have no problem training myself to drop the extra space, but I don’t think this is as wide spread of a criticism as you might think.

        If I’m wrong, please let me know so I can get it right.

  • Carmen Hill

    I’m amazed this continues to be so contentious. It’s been one space since the ’80s, as Diane notes. I get that folks who aren’t involved in professional communications roles may not be up to speed…and that academia, for some reason resists…but what I don’t get is that so many people stubbornly insist on two spaces EVEN AFTER they find out that the standard has changed and even when they know it means someone else will have to go in and take all those extra spaces out. Definitely a peeve ;)

  • Rick

    I come from a publishing background. The doublespace after the period was only for rough drafts, so the copyeditor could insert a handwritten mark (like ^), if needed (and the lines were doublespaced for the same reason).

    The final version of a document was always one space after the period (and single spaced lines) — and was never done on a typewriter by the author, but was typeset by a pro (back in the typewriter days).

    The double space persisted in academic papers because, again, these were to be typeset before published in a journal, and it gave room for the professor/reviewer to write suggestions and questions.

    >They will also move those commas where they are supposed to go and fix your “there, their and they’re” errors (and remove that old-fashioned comma before the “and” in a list).

    That’s not old-fashioned, that’s an issue of inention. Without the comma, it’s “their and they’re” as a single unit. It’s not a style issue — it changes what is said.

    (Likewise, the “–” I used in the previous sentence is replaced by an em-dash when typset. This is done automatically in most word processors.)

  • latinalady

    Oh, I quit doing the two spaces years ago. So happy to see I’ve been doing it the right way. And yeah, I started off with a typewriter, but acquired my first computer in the way back when it was DOS.

  • Darla

    I’m simply shocked by so many articles I read on the internet where professional writers (Yahoo comes to mind) don’t know the difference between your and you’re. I’ve seen it written incorrectly so many times. I’ve also seen many their vs they’re used incorrectly. I can’t say about the two spaces now but I was taught that way – probaby in typing class! If my resume’ is trashed just for that…well then, I guess nothing surprises me anymore. I just believe writing accurately has gone to heck in great part due to IM’ing and that something important has been lost. I cringe every time I read those glaring mistakes. Where are the online editors and how do I apply? :) Or is there no such thing as editors anymore?

  • Tara

    THANK YOU for this. As a professional journalist, freelance copyeditor, former English teacher, former graphic design instructor (who has taught kerning), and current grad student, I have become frustrated in all these fields with the occasional two-spacer. I’m 33 and I did learn 2-spaces early on… like in junior high. And then I learned in college (1990s) that it’s supposed to be one space. And I never looked back. Is it so hard to accept that two spaces is wrong and simply do it the right way?

  • Tara

    I should add that it is not petty to toss a resume for grammatical errors, including the use of two spaces. A grammatically impeccable and up-to-date (typographically speaking) resume shows attention to detail and thoroughness. These are two work ethic traits I would insist my employees show.

  • What “two spaces” tells me about you :: Unison Consulting

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  • Greg Satell

    To me this is a non-issue. It’s true that there is no need for two spaces anymore, but one might just as easily ask why we use QWERTY keyboards at all. Why time isn’t in a base of ten?

    The truth is that conventions tend to endure because people are used to them and if there is not enough value in changing them, they will live on.

    Spaces after a period won’t get you to work, feed your kids, keep you warm in the winter…

    – Greg

  • G. Armour Van Horn

    I believe that the reason for the second space was carbon paper. The second or third copy was not likely to be clear enough to show a distinct difference between a period and a comma, so the second space after a “full stop” (a period or a colon) and a single space after a lesser break (comma or semicolon) helped keep it clear.

    The most common problem with the second space is when a sentence ends one space short of a line, forcing the next line to start with a space. Although not enough to actually look like an indent, it’s enough to look like crap. The nastiest problem is when the text is flowed into justified columns, a line that has a double space in it can sometimes just explode with big gaps. As a result, those of us who have worked in publishing, even desktop publishing, and by this I mean at least back as far as 1985, routinely do a search-and-destroy on multiple spaces from all but the most trusted sources.

    Yes, I learned to type with two spaces. I learned the need to break that habit a very long time ago.

    BTW, I just went through every section of AP (1998 edition) and don’t find any trace of answering the question. They are very clear that you should put a space on both sides of an ellipsis, and to not use a space between first initials (eg. T.S. Eliot rather than T. S. Eliot), but no guidance at all on the second space after a full stop. I suspect they don’t need to, anything set in narrow justified newspaper columns would be a disaster with double spaces.

    Yes, I have two or three copies of AP Style, and at least two versions of Chicago, and I probably learned this first form Robin Williams “The Mac is Not a Typewriter” (not sure how old that was, but the second edition is from 1991 – the first chapter title: “1. One Space Between Sentences.”) but I didn’t learn that two spaces were wrong by reading it in a book. I learned by flowing hundreds of thousands of words into PageMaker documents, and writing tens of thousands of words for publication in magazines.

    It’w wrong, and there are millions of people that know it. To any of us that know what type should look like, using two spaces just says “I don’t give a damn”. Not exactly what you want to tell a potential employer.

    Van

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