Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Double-Spaced Sentences...YOU DECIDE!!!™

If you haven't yet, go ahead and check out this post to find out what we're doing this week.  Or don't.  It's pretty straightforward.  You can also see our last discussion topic here.

Today's topic for YOU DECIDE!!!™ is...


You may have noticed (or if you haven't before, you certainly will now) that I always double-space my sentences.  I can't help it.  It's like breathing.  Or masturbating.  It just happens automatically no matter what  I try to do.  And up until...shit, maybe two weeks ago?  Maybe a month?  Up until not that long ago, I never thought anything of it.  Or if I did think anything of it, I thought, "Oh, good, you're doing just what you've always been taught."

And I am.  But the thing is, now they're teaching something else.  Apparently when I was coming up (and I may be betraying my age here, but hopefully not too exactly) computers were still more of an oddity than a necessity.  Business was done on typewriters, and we were just starting to edge into using word processing programs instead.  It was obvious to pretty much everyone except the congenitally stodgy that the transition would happen some day, but it hadn't happened YET.

So, it turns out that double spacing sentences is, according to some, a relic of the typewriter age.  It has something to do with typesetting for novels that only really had to do with the old-timey steam-powered printing presses of yesteryear operated presumably by Victorian-era coal miners with handlebar moustaches.  I've got to be honest here, and, once again I may be betraying my obvious bias, warranted or not, in favor of double-spaced sentences, but I just don't get this one.  (Hence why YOU get to DECIDE!!!™)

Like the serial comma, I see double spacing sentences as adding clarity and nipping reading comprehension problems in the bud before they happen.  So, for instance, you could be buzzing through a book and read "...St. Basil..." as "Saint Basil" when it was really two sentences, one ending in the abbreviation for "street" and the next one starting with the name "Basil."  You wouldn't have the same problem with "...St.  Basil..."

On the opposing side, I have to admit that while double spacing sentences can be helpful in reading comprehension, it's never strictly necessary.  Or, to use a metaphor, double-spaced sentences are helpful in the same way that training wheels are helpful, but once you've learned how to ride a bike you don't need training wheels anymore, even if you fall once in a while.  Yes, there are sentences where you might, if skimming, read "...Dr. Johnson..." instead of "...Drive.  Johnson..." but there are no sentences where the meaning is impossible to glean, especially after a second reading.  (Beloved blogketeers, can you come up with any?  I can't, and I'm on the pro side of this debate.)

And so, for those opposed to the double-spaced sentence, it becomes a simply matter of efficacy.  Let's say we're writing 50,000 words, the minimum for a novel.  Let's take 10 words per sentence as a rule of thumb.  By double-spacing this manuscript we add 5,000 spaces, which are characters, about the length of three pages of a book formatted for publishing.  So by double-spacing sentences we add three pages of blank space to our manuscript.

So the question becomes, is the length added to the manuscript by double-spacing negligible?  Or is the value added to reading comprehension by double-spacing negligible? 

Double-spaced sentences: Yea or Nay?



  1. Hmm, do I double-space my sentences? Nope, I only single-space them. I actually thought about the subject a few years ago, whether you're supposed to insert two spaces or just one space after the period, but I guess my teachers prefer just one space.

    At first, I thought this post refers to double-spaced paragraphs/. Is that the standard in publishing?

    1. Indeed, double spaced paragraphs are the standard in publishing. Courier or Times 12 point, typically. Make sure you check the standards of the publisher or agent you're querying though, as your mileage may vary.

  2. I've never done the double-space thing. I recall we learned to do this is typing class in 7th grade, along with various tips on WordPerfect shortcuts and the like. Perhaps I, six months your senior, was wise enough to recognize that Ms. DeMarco was not in fact the High Priestess of Technological Literacy, and therefore ignored her pleas for three extra pages per novel.

    1. As usual, your advanced age disgusts and confuses me. I had Mr. Rubin.

  3. Double space may be the standard in schools and publishing submissions, but I don't think its ever been the universal standard for business memos or letter writing in a good long time, if ever.

    If you check out the "letters of note" web site, in the typewritten notes section, the majority of letters seem to be single spaced:

    1. This is a good point and a good website. Thanks for the input! This is exactly the kind of discussion I was hoping to generate with these posts.

  4. I used to double space sentences, and then was rebuked by a teacher several years ago. I have never bothered to double space since then.
    As Chihuahua Zero commented, I too thought this post was about double spaced paragraphs at first. It wasnt until the "...St. Basil..." and "...St. Basil..." That I caught on.
    Great post though.
    I wonder if there is a preference to agents and publishers whether you double space the sentences or not...

    1. I'd love to know so I don't broadcast myself as an amateur! I've seen some agents make blog posts saying specifically not to, but I've also had full requests based on double-spaced partials, so maybe it's just not a big deal.


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