Skip to main content

Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Search for legal issues
For help near (city, ZIP code or county)
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location

Spaces Are the New Frontier in the Lawyer Writing Wars

Article Placeholder Image
By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 29, 2017 3:57 PM

Lawyers love to get worked up about obscure grammar and style rules, almost as much as they like to get in a huff over obscure laws. (Emoluments, anyone?) There's the long-running fight pitting case law aficionados against the caselaw'ers. A recent First Circuit ruling that was decided on the lack of an Oxford comma opened up a new front in that ongoing war. But frankly, that stuff is old news.

The newest major legal writing fight revolves around one of the most pressing issues facing lawyers today: Should you put one or two spaces after a period?

Two Space or Not Two Space

If you're of a certain age -- and by that we mean pretty much anyone who learned to type before the mid-90s -- you were probably told to put two spaces after every period, even if you were typing on a PC. Such sentence spacing is an old typesetting convention, literally going back hundreds of years, and one that gained common usage when typewriters became popular.

Publishers and typesetters eventually dropped the double space, but the two-space tradition continued among most typists. Some say it helps compensate for manual typewriters' monospaced type, some say it reduced key jamming.

Today, monospaced type isn't a concern with modern word processors, or modern courts. The Seventh Circuit, for example, prohibits it. Your keyboard definitely isn't going to jam no matter how many or how few spaces you use. But, the double space sentence spacing still persists.

Sometimes stubbornly.

From there, the debate spread:

When all is said and done, it seems like most of us are on the one-space side:

It's good to know that at least a narrow majority of us are doing it right.

Are you a fan of one space or two? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

Related Resources:

Find a Lawyer

More Options