5 pro tips for using the space bar

Nothing says “This was written by an amateur” like … nothing. White space. Blank space. The number of times you hit that long button at the bottom of a keyboard. Knowing when to insert a space can give your writing top-tier professional polish. Sound like a goal? Here are five pro tips for using the space bar.

  1. Single space between sentences.
  2. Put a space before an ellipsis.
  3. Know when to space around dashes.
  4. Know when to space between initials.
  5. Check a dictionary for spacing between words.

1. Single space between sentences.

The question of whether to put one space or two after a period or other terminal punctuation mark is hotly debated and highly controversial. That’s ridiculous. There’s no controversy here.

For decades, the professional publishing world has followed the standard of using just one space between sentences. That’s true for both book publishing and news media. Even longtime holdout the Modern Language Assn., which guides students on how to write papers, now agrees, saying the only time you would put two spaces between sentences is when your teacher or professor prefers it.

2. Put a space before an ellipsis.

An ellipsis, a series of three dots that indicate that words were cut out or someone trailed off mid-thought, is always preceded by a space … like this. But if you’ve ever looked closely, you might have noticed that sometimes it sure looks like the first dot touches the word in front of it. Sometimes it even looks like there are four dots, not three, and the first one touches the word before it. I can explain.

When the text before an ellipsis is a complete sentence, the rules say you end that sentence with a period. Then you insert a space and then the three-dot ellipsis. … Computers often reformat this series to make it look like four dots in a row, with no spaces between them. But in fact, what you’re seeing is period, space, period, period, period. So technically there’s still a space in front of the ellipsis. When the stuff before the ellipsis is not a complete sentence, don’t add the extra period. Just space, dot, dot, dot.

Here's the rest in my recent column.

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One Response to “5 pro tips for using the space bar”

  1. I appreciate you providing such useful advice on how to use the space bar. I believe that many individuals overlook the importance of the space bar. When copy editing a document or searching for a certain point, the space bar is really required. Each time, it is essential.