Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: An Automatic Two Spaces after a Period.

An Automatic Two Spaces after a Period

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 19, 2014)

17

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. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Spelling & Grammar tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Spelling & Grammar tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. Click on the Settings button. Word displays the Grammar Settings dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Grammar Settings dialog box.

  6. Use the Spaces Required Between Sentences 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 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 features 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.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1820) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) 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 for this tip:

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What is 9 + 8?

2016-12-17 07:24:50

GeordieLad

Hi Dave,

I don't see your problem; Leah's logic is impeccable.

In the example you quote (E.G.), because there is no space after the point, Find/Replace will ignore it - as it will in any sentences which fail to insert a space after the point.


2016-12-16 09:39:38

Dave

Leah, how about words like E.G

Your logic breaks at that point


2016-12-03 23:06:37

Leah

I figured out that if you select the "replace" option in Word and replace ". " with ". " you will be able to change every sentence to have two spaces afterwards! Just type a period then 1 space for your "find what" option, and then type a period with two spaces for you "replace with" option. :)


2016-08-02 18:22:45

greg556

I know it's not the point of this post, but here are my two cents anyway. I think everyone is missing the point of this debate of one-space versus two. People keep arguing which "looks better." That isn't the issue. What has happened is, editors have stopped doing their jobs. More and more journals simply take the writer's manuscript AS SUBMITTED and cut-and-paste it into their journal with no real-life typesetting at all.

When an editor says she wants one space rather than two, what she is really saying is "I have abnegated my role as editor and publisher. I now put those responsibilities on the writer."

I find it silly, even offensive, but the "rise of computers" has utterly nothing to do with a change in aesthetics toward this question. It's about laziness, and even the loss of the art of putting "Words into Type." Please spread this point around, I seem to be the only one that gets it.


2015-02-19 17:24:50

lorrie

Because I write and sometimes get edited by others I was curious about this. I always used TWO spaces. My latest editor changes it to ONE! And then yesterday I found out something that has me wanting to chang to ONE. Evidently editors figure that two spaces pretty much announces the writer is over 40! Perhaps school began changing the guidelines over the past years. Or maybe they just STOPPEd giving guidelines and ONE space became a defacto norm for younger writers.But I thought it was worth sharing.


2014-12-17 10:56:16

aditya

i have a huge problem of space being more than normal size as i pasted from ms excel to word. is there anyway i can have the same length of space when i paste.


2014-12-08 12:58:09

paula joy

I do tons of transcription work. I want the default setting to be such that two spaces are inserted after each ending punctuation mark. I don't want two spaces inserted in, say, an acronym that involves periods (U.S.A.) or, say, something like the caliber of a gun or a numerical figure preceded by a point (.30). How can I set Word up to do this correctly?

Two spaces uniformly after ending punctuation is much easier on the reader's eyes. I'm on a profession where this is mandatory, regarding set-up. Why is this such a difficult thing to set up in Word as a preference? (You probably can't answer that, I realize.) I prefer that I set a default preference, instead of using the grammar-checking method you describe above, mainly because then I know that ONLY ending punctuation is spaced this way.

Thank you! Paula Joy


2014-06-30 00:21:20

Tim

Someone else pointed this out but it is important to know what style you are writing in. APA style needs 2 spaces at the end of a sentence."

Spacing twice after punctuation marks at the end of a sentence aids readers of draft manuscripts" (APA manual p. 88).


2013-11-29 14:50:43

Kris

Actually, this is important for students using APA style of writing. It is required to have 2 spaces after every end of sentence punctuation. Thanks for the tips!


2012-12-18 23:53:52

Feng

I wrote the following macro for the same task, working properly for sentences ending with double quotes and right double quotes, and some exceptions. Hope you find it helpful.


Sub TwoSpaces()
'
' Automatically replace one or three spaces with two space between two sentences
' if the first sentence ends with period, question mark or exclamation mark
' Macro created by Feng Zhou on 12/18/2012
'
'Replace one space with two spaces
Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "([.?!]) ([A-Z])"
.Replacement.Text = "1 2"
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchWildcards = True
End With
Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

'Replace three space with two spaces
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "([.?!]) ([A-Z])"
.Replacement.Text = "1 2"
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchWildcards = True
End With
Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

'Replace sentences ending with double quote (ASCII code 34 or repeating the double quote)
' or right double quote (ASCII 148)
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "([.""?""!""." & Chr(148) & "?" & Chr(148) & "!" & Chr(148) & "]) ([A-Z])"
.Replacement.Text = "1 2"
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchWildcards = True
End With
Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

'Replace three spaces with two spaces
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "([.""?""!""." & Chr(148) & "?" & Chr(148) & "!" & Chr(148) & "]) ([A-Z])"
.Replacement.Text = "1 2"
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchWildcards = True
End With
Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

'Exception: Fig. X
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "(Fig.) ([A-Z])"
.Replacement.Text = "1 2"
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchWildcards = True
End With
Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

' Exception: A vs. B
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "(vs.) ([A-Z])"
.Replacement.Text = "1 2"
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchWildcards = True
End With
Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

'Exception: A Vs. B
'Other exceptions can be added
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "(Vs.) ([A-Z])"
.Replacement.Text = "1 2"
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchWildcards = True
End With
Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

End Sub


2012-11-08 17:03:48

Michael

I have the same problem as Jeff. When I space after a period at the end of a sentence, the space is normal-sized. If I space again, to put 2 paces between sentences as I prefer to do, I get a double space, so now there are 3 spaces between sentences, and I can't figure out how to cut it back to 2.


2012-11-03 14:57:14

Mandey

Hello. I followed your instructions,but when it came to step 4 I couldn't go any further. I don't have a Spaces Required Between Sentences drop-down list. Help?


2012-10-29 01:32:59

Jim

Thank you, very helpful


2012-10-25 07:46:52

Jeff

Ok Microsoft Word World, I usually dont do this but I need some help if someone can. I cannot solve a microsoft word problem. I have version 2003. Before if I double spaced after a period the two spaces between the period and first letter of the next sentence were really close together and each of the two spaces were the same size of any other space between words. Now for some reason if I double space after a period thsoe two spaces are much bigger. Basically the space between words is small but if I double sapce after a period thsoe two spaces are bigger. How can I make the spaces afte rthe period close together (ie the same size as two single spaces between words) It is a little hard to explain but hoepfully someone can understand. I want the double spaces after a period to be close togheter not far apart. PLEASE HELP!!!


2012-09-26 20:55:12

Aaron

This was helpful. The only reason I searched this was because my stupid English teacher wants us to put two spaces after sentences for just this one paper we typed.


2012-07-28 16:45:43

khadija Begum

very helpful, Thanks!


2012-06-04 22:29:04

Oure

Awesome site! I just learned a cool trick to get Word to help me put 2 spaces after periods. Very helpful. Thanks for existing.


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