One Space or Two?

I have always placed one space between sentences in the same paragraph. Until I began editing submissions for Neatorama (mainly to correct line breaks for html formatting), I didn't realize so many people placed two (or more) spaces after a period. I also noticed my children used two spaces between sentences in their school work. They said their teachers told them to. How did that habit originate? And who makes the rules for such things?
Typographers, that's who. The people who study and design the typewritten word decided long ago that we should use one space, not two, between sentences. That convention was not arrived at casually. James Felici, author of the The Complete Manual of Typography, points out that the early history of type is one of inconsistent spacing. Hundreds of years ago some typesetters would end sentences with a double space, others would use a single space, and a few renegades would use three or four spaces. Inconsistency reigned in all facets of written communication; there were few conventions regarding spelling, punctuation, character design, and ways to add emphasis to type. But as typesetting became more widespread, its practitioners began to adopt best practices. Felici writes that typesetters in Europe began to settle on a single space around the early 20th century. America followed soon after.

Slate looks at the "type crime" of double spacing. Which convention do you follow when typing? Link -via Buzzfeed

Double spacing after a period made sense with typewriters, but word-processing programs now add more space after a period automatically, so it should be unnecessary.
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I was taught that in proper typeset text, the space between sentences should be larger than the space between words. The convention, when using a typewriter or other medium where spaces come in fixed sizes, developed to use two spaces instead of one so that size is larger.
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@Beezy
That's right the MLA (Modern Language Association) has changed the rule to one space. The period used to require two spaces after it because the period only took up half a character's worth of space. To make sure the sentences were separated enough.
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I know of a law firm that will fire a secretary if she does not follow their style guide when filing legal papers. That guide requires two spaces after a period.
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I had always used one space until high school when my Italian teacher made a big deal of it. I just started using two spaces in everything, and never ran into any problems until I started doing translation and one of my editors (Argentine) got on my case! I actually like two spaces better, it makes reading a little smoother.
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I actually can't stand it when people use two spaces after a sentence. We aren't typing with typewriters anymore. Teachers these days need to back off with the old traditions that makes no sense with modern technology. It bothers me greatly when people enforce rules so strictly as to even lower grades on assignments just because of it. I really hope this habit will die off just so that nobody can make a big deal about it anymore.

And yes, I did learn how to type on the typewriter first growing up.
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It's amazing how much a single group can influence English grammar. MLA is SUPPOSED to be the deciders of grammar the way that the OED is the decider for vocabulary. The English language, both spoken and written, is constantly evolving. An extra space at the end of a sentence is meaningless as long as it doesn't interfere with comprehension. What bothers me is when the meaning is unclear or changed by poor use of grammar.

Example: "Last night for dinner I had salad, steak, and chocolate ice cream." In the above example, there is a distinct difference between the three items, as there was during the meal. According to the grammar books, though, the correct way to write the above sentence is: "Last night for dinner I had salad, steak and chocolate ice cream." I don't know about anyone else, but the structure of that sentence implies to me that after salad, I had a steak with a big scoop of chocolate ice cream on top. Go back 50 years and the first example is grammatically correct; today the second one is. Why? The AP dropped the final comma in order to save one character when printing newspapers.

You may have also noticed that I use two spaces after every period. In the days of dead tree media where space mattered, which Slate appears to be supporting, it made sense to drop the extra space or the final comma. With digital media, though, space is not a concern, and with the increased prevalence of the period being used outside of its traditional role as sentence ender, I find it helpful to have an extra space to indicate the end of a sentence rather than some other use of the period.

If the author is so concerned about ending that particular grammatical quirk, I suggest they look into employment in dead tree media what it actually matters.
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When the MLA changed the space(s) after periods from two to one I had to retrain my brain (and thumbs). Different style guides want different things though, so be careful.
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Viva la double space! Until someone tells the middle and high school typing teachers and grammar books that it should be one space, we will still have double spaces at the end of sentences. In the end, don't the number of spaces at the end of a sentence depend on font?
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In response to Rumson: I just used two spaces between my sentences and Neatorama reformatted it. Lets see if that double space between the colon and "I" stuck. ;)
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Early morning brain explosion....

I can use 1 space? I am trying throughout this whole post to only utilize one space after each period. And even though I'm concisouly thinking about it, I can't do it. It's programming. That's ok, the wonderful thing that is reformatting will take care of all the spelling errors, let me know if I've made any grammer mistakes, will tell me my attachment is missing and likely write the damned post for me.

I can stop double spacing. I am an addict.
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This post has broken something in my mind, because now I can't disregard the spaces in these comments. Reading suddenly became much more difficult.
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I was also taught 2 spaces after a period in typing in high school but at some point in time after that, as we were using word processors more, was told that, as others have mentioned, that 1 space is the new proper thing to do. I like it a lot better- a whole lot faster to type! ;)

@Kelly- looks like the double space is gone! ;)
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My high school keyboarding instructor (she was a vintage 1950's instructor in the 90's) taught us all to use 2 spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. It was in the text book, too, as I recall. I just do it automatically now.
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The selected quote in this context makes it look like it's blaming typographers for the double space, when the opposite is true.

Don't use two spaces people, unless you're trying to ape an elderly secretary.
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Echoing a lot of comments on here- I was taught to type on typewriters, and use two spaces at the end of the sentence. It is such a habit at this point, I don't even notice that I am doing it. Also, as a person who appreciates things remembered, I kind of like the old fashioned quality of it. I don't have any interest in retraining my brain to do it differently!
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More space is necessary after sentence end, point moot.

Current algorithms provide this and delete the extra space... I regard this as the 'avatarization' of online text personalities. You don't get to see the real TTY output (coming from the long, long ago here). Are they fat? You'll never know, but you used to be able to tell if they could spell. Watch for the algorithmization of the its/it's thing... these fall as cheap AI proceeds.

If you take time to think about what you're writing the extra space at the end affects nothing... I waste much more on backspacing.
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Every html renderer have ignored extra spaces since the beginning of the web, it's part of the standard definition of the language.

It's not Neatorama comment system that strips the extra spaces, it's your browser.

Only way to retain extra spaces in html is to use the tag for preformated text.

About the use of double space at the end of a sentence, it's the first time I heard about it. Maybe it was a rule related with the English language? (I'm Argentine)
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Ok - this drives me crazy. I use 2 spaces because that is what I was taught. "Who" says that is wrong? For me, two spaces indicates the definative end of the sentence (yes, I know the punctuation mark is the end, but have you ever edited a newspaper?) It "looks" better, to me, and makes me happy. If you have a problem with my extra spaces, tough....
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It's cute how the author emphatically states that 'two-spacing' is wrong. It's a convention that one either follows or doesn't; there's no 'wrong' to it, just a popularity. Next.
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The typographical notion of using one space between sentences has its roots in physical printing, and is based on issues that aren't relevant online.

Offset printing presses like to print a 'grey' page.. if you divide the page into 1cm strips vertically, each strip should contain about the same amount of ink. That makes it easy to regulate the ink feed to the platen. It's hard to print pages where one strip gets a lot more ink than another. Either the dark one will get starved for ink or the light one will get smudged.

Therefore printers prefer 'justified' layouts (both the right and left edges of the text line up) over 'ragged right' layouts. The random spaces on the right edge of a ragged right layout make regulating the inkflow a bitch.

There's no fixed size for linear whitespace in a justified layout, so putting two spaces-of-undetermined-size between any two words is redundant. The layout man will just make one of them whatever size it needs to be, and will throw away the other one. That's a nuisance, so the layout men would tell the writers not to do it.

None of that is relevant to text on a computer screen. There's no ink to regulate, so it doesn't matter if your page is adequately grey. Most computer text runs ragged-right, but if you do want to justify it, the software can handle a redundant space without any trouble.

It's especially irrelevant on the web, because the standard is to treat all whitespace between two printing characters as 'one space'.

So type whatever the heck you want. If it gets formatted as HTML, it will be compressed to one space automatically. If it ends up being displayed in monospace type or ragged-right, it will be a little easier to read.

My touchstone for typographical issues in the computer age is to apply them to the following sentence:

Does the typograpical errors in this sentence mak it harder to understand than the spelling punctuation, and logical one's?
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I used to do double space until I started working in journalism. It's all about getting as much info as possible in your allotted space. Two spaces after each sentence can really add up.

I have to say, once I was editor of my college paper, I was downright tyrannical about abolishing that extra space. And not spelling out numbers -- another style issue that varies a lot.
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Two spaces with the typewriter: One space with a computer. I first read/learned of this change in the "end sentence spacing rule" in the manual "The Mac is not a Typewriter" about 15+ years ago.
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HTML automatically strips out the second space. I'm sorry your schools were all taught by people who thought word processors behaved EXACTLY the same as typewriters. I'm sure they also wouldn't know what a "Fixed-width font" is, either.
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"Therefore printers prefer 'justified' layouts (both the right and left edges of the text line up) over 'ragged right' layouts. The random spaces on the right edge of a ragged right layout make regulating the inkflow a bitch.."

What? No. Never. Right-justified printing is something that designers came up with. Ink coverage isn't a problem, and setting justified type back in the day was a serious bitch.

Seriously people, friends don't let friends double space after a period. You're just wasting paper.
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I have always used two spaces. But if the MLA now says one, that is going to be a hard habit to break for me.

As for neatorama reformatting the double spaces, its actually an HTML process. HTML code will recognize one "white space" then ignore the rest. If you want more white spaces then you have to enter the code (& n b s p ;). Its the characters inside the parentheses, and no need for spaces. I wasn't sure how Neato's comments are interpreted, and if the system would have read my text as code or actual text.

As I write this, I found that I was putting in two spaces without even thinking about it. However, I'm sure it will be HTML formatted by the time you read this. This is going to be near impossible habit to break!
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I'm a graphic designer and am always having to do a find-replace on copy submitted to me to get that second space out from between sentences. But that takes, what, 10 seconds? So I'm not about to complain.
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I used to add two spaces after a sentence because that's how I first learned how to type. (I learned to type on a computer; not a typewriter, if that matters.) Then someone pointed out to me that you just needed one space after a sentence. After he told me that, I only used one space after sentences. Making the switch was easy.

DIRECTED BY MICHAEL BAY
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I remember being taught to use two spaces. In grade school when first learning about spacing I was told to put one finger space between each word and 2 fingers worth of space between sentences. However I use only one space between sentences when typing but not sure when that started.
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I learned on an Apple II back in the 80s when I was in grade school. I was taught to use two spaces as that was the "correct" way and I still do (if Neatorama reformats this, so be it). After reading the article I am still not convinced that one way is correct over the other (and not because my way is "wrong").

Typesetters may use this, but I am not a typesetter. I find that the two space break slightly helps my readability on top of the period as it is a clearer break. All this is due to the English language being fractionalized and one side saying that they are correct over the other.

Take quotes for instance. If you are "quoting something", does your comma go inside the quotes or outside them? Are you quoting the comma? I have seen arguments for and against this.

In the end, you can argue until you are blue in the face. The fact of the matter is that everyone is told that one way is the proper way to do something (and it may hold true for where they are from) and that as long as we understand what they are trying to convey, we can tolerate the fact that they are different. Not wrong, just different.
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The change in standards is the one problem I have with some of the new technology today. I truely believe if we keep changing/reducing standards they(we) will eventually become so weak that they become obsolete. If we contine to erode/decrease old standards (as in improving upon them)standards may end up being so weak that they mean nothing. Standard changes should not only be debatable, but, are they necessary, and for the good of all. We must be careful in the changes we make. Texting, for instance, have given our children a new way of spelling that we the parents have to go back to a different type of school to understand what they are saying/writing. This is not good. I know they write like this to save on letters. The less letters the less money you are charged,and the more you can text, but will they soon forget how to write a sentence, or to spell. (If they learned the old standard way.) Come on! Some standards should be kept forever, like the 10 commandments.
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"I have to say, once I was editor of my college paper, I was downright tyrannical about abolishing that extra space. And not spelling out numbers -- another style issue that varies a lot."
I was taught with the double space method, and 25 years later that's still the method that I use. It is just second nature for me, and is an almost impossible habit for me to break.

As for spelling numbers, not sure which side of the fence you fall on but I was taught that the numbers zero through nine should be spelled out and numbers 10 and higher should be in number form.
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I'm a graphic designer and the first thing I do when I receive new copy (text) for a layout is Find-And-Replace double spaces with singles. And dashes with en-dashes, em-dashes with space-en-space. And inch marks with quote marks, foot marks with single quotes...
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"I find that the two space break slightly helps my readability on top of the period as it is a clearer break."

This ^.

I also use two spaces and was taught on a typewriter in high school. The rationale was that you were making the break in flow more obvious (the end of one sentence and the beginning of another). This was to contrast the end of a sentence, where there should be a brief pause when reading out loud, with an abbreviated word within a sentence, e.g. St. Cloud or Mr. Rogers, where you wouldn't pause if you were reading out loud.

Of course, with texting, isn't this all a moot point? A lot people can't even spell much less punctuate these days. Comments that contain no punctuation at all and are peppered with "u" and "ur" make my brain hurt. Not that I've ever seen one of those on Neatorama. ;)

By the way, anyone notice the tone of the article was intentionally incendiary? "If you use two spaces, you're WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!" Please, go solve world hunger and clean water issues. Number of spaces? Really?
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Being Norwegian, I had never heard of the double-space until I moved to the US. It still seems bizarre to me, and although I can appreciate that it made sense in a distant past and with other technology, I cannot find any good reason for using it in our digital age. To me, it only slows down my reading - although that may be mostly because it is unfamiliar to me.
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One of my clinical educators used to consistently put a space, then a full stop, then no space before the next sentence .Like this .Terrible .
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This sounds to me like the kind of nonsense religious strife and intolerance is built upon. "Because it's wrong!". Calm down and give me break. One space, two space.My new standard is now no spaces at all.How do you like that?This comment contained sentences separated by two, one, and zero spaces.
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I am pretty sure that the Little, Brown Handbook says that two spaces. Since the PC world was dominated by males it should come as no surprise that when they were designing this little world they didn't read the instruction manual.
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Designers (I am one) use one space. Well designed fonts automatically add a an extra bit of space. Two spaces leave visually distracting "river" of white running through the text. So, yeah, "find and replace" for most text I get, particularly from people from the typewriter or early word processor era.
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I've done a lot of typing, proofreading & editing. Indeed, I was taught in my typing class, many aeons ago, to put two spaces after the end of a sentence. Visually, I find that this is much easier on the eyes when reading for extended periods of time. The barely-perceptible second space tells the brain, "New sentence." When reading type by someone who doesn't follow this rule, I tend to get lost or tired easily.
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People arguing over this reminds me of programmers arguing over how to format source code. After reading about 1000 flame wars, I can safely say that it doesn't matter, as long as you're consistent.

(ps, the curly bracket goes on the line after the if statement)
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I used to do two spaces in like 2nd grade when learning how to write/type, but my teacher corrected me to one space, I've never noticed people using more than one space otherwise...
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The MLA is nice, if you're formatting a newspaper and need every space. If you actually care about readability, use two spaces.

Speaking of readability, I've switched to Droid Serif for my legal pleadings. Judges love it.
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Two spaces. Hard habit to break. I just did it twice! Also, I was taught that way. Perhaps somebody ought to do a geographical survey of this?
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As has been stated above several times already, in HTML (which is what all of the web is), it doesn't matter if you type fifty spaces in a row, it'll appear as one space. So all of the double-spacers are doing it for nothing whenever they post anything to the web.
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This is the first time I ever heard of it, I guess it is more American than European (or possibly connected to English/American language in some weird way). Were I to receive a document with double spaces I would have been very surprised, now at least I know that is just different things being taught rather than not knowing the proper way.

I was always taught to NEVER use more than one space after a period, starting on a typewriter and later on computers. To me double spaces would look like you are trying to make some odd statement, like using multiple exclamation marks with a one thrown in, or a similar oddity.
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When type was manually set, typesetters used chunks of lead of two different widths, referred to as "em"s and "en"s, the width of the blank being the same as the letter m and n, respectively. I think these were mainly used between words in order to right-justify the text, but I also think the wider "em"s were used after a period to separate sentences.
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Two spaces after a period. Period. Much easier to read because of the extra space. That's the way I was taught, granted quite some time ago. You'll have to wait for us old fogies to die out before it will change completely!
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I'm going to side with Microsmacked! here as far as the comparison between print and digital media goes. For all intents and purposes a space costs nothing in digital media.

Also, for a typography fanatic, the article is incorrect about a space representing a pause. A period represents a pause, not the space. Two spaces does not cause people to pause longer after a sentence.

For me, I am normally a two-spacer but I have been known to drop down to one based on the font. On many fonts two spaces looks better to me and allows me to more easily spot the beginning of sentences when I am quickly scanning a page of text. I tend to memorize text by where it is located on a page and the space between sentences helps with that.

I'm not a militant two-spacer, but I like my two spaces.
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I was taught to leave two spaces when I went to school. I used two spaces since then until now. I work at a newspaper and they taught me that if you use two spaces after a period it creates 'rivers' of white space running through the columns.

it was a hard habit to break.
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I type two spaces at the end of a sentence. The question is, how much space do you leave at the end of a handwritten sentence? A lot of people leave more space between sentences than they do between words when they use a pen or pencil, so it's consistent to do the same on a keyboard.

I have no intention of changing. If people like looking at ugly text, they can write software to change my double spaces into single spaces, the way HTML does. Likewise, if newspaper editors want to be such pedants, they can change it themselves. To quote Oscar Wilde, "I'll leave you to tidy up the woulds and shoulds, wills and shalls, thats and whiches, etc."

Focus on the substance of the ideas and leave the details of style up to people who care about it.
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@Matt #59: "The MLA is nice, if you're formatting a newspaper and need every space. If you actually care about readability, use two spaces."

The readability hit is unlikely to be too much. Virtually every book published uses a single space after sentences, and they don't have the same space constraints as newspapers. (Pull a couple down from your bookshelf and see for yourself). We'd have to believe that pretty much every publisher of every novel, newspaper, and magazine are all super space conscious enough to degrade the readability of their own product.
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I was taught to put two spaces after a period ending a sentence, to differentiate from one space after abbreviations and titles, and two spaces after a colon. Lately, word processing programs, i.e. Word, has insisted that two spaces after a period ending a sentence is nonsense and the program will automatically remove the 2nd space, regardless. It is true for many comment features on the internet. So a commenter may type two spaces but the comment feature will toss away the 2nd and it will make the commenter seem clueless. I believe we should be allowed to type two spaces and have them be honored.
A sentence ends with a period and two spaces. The two spaces make it clear that a sentence has ended. Dr. Jones was typing a long sentence. Mr. Smith was reading it. The list of doctors attending the convention are: Dr. White, Dr. Green, Dr. Brown and Dr. Jones. They will be speakers as well.

See? (If, that is, the comment feature here does not zap the second space in my example graf above.)
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So, when computers automatically add an indent for you, you have to do it again at the start of a paragraph because you were told to hit that key when you were growing up, when there was no auto-indent function?
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I'm an English teacher. I frequently ask my students to double-space their work, by which I mean for them to change the line spacing setting to double (so that there is more room for me to write comments above and below each line if necessary). Although I explain what this is and often demonstrate how to do it, I have at times instead ended up with work containing these odd double spaces after a full stop. I'd wondered if was just because I wasn't explaining myself clearly enough - it is interesting to now learn that there's a whole wealth of misinformation on this topic out there which may be confusing them.
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Simple answer. One for screen, two for print.

For e-mail, websites, and any communication which is viewed on a screen, one space is best. The screen usually creates enough space with one, due to the use of pixels. Also there are technical reasons with html that make one space better.

If your writing is going to be viewed in print, such as magazines or brochures, two spaces is better. One space does not provide enough visual space on a printed page, especially with small type. Letters are typically spaced closer together on a printed page (the higher resolution allows more accurate spacing), so the need for a visual break between sentences is more important.
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@VM,

I do the same thing! I once complained aloud to my coworkers about the double space and they refused to change, so I just do the find and replace. It's easier than trying to convince them the double space is unnecessary on a computer.
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