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An Automatic Two Spaces after a Period

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.

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.

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Comments for this tip:

Tim     30 Jun 2014, 00:21
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).
Kris    29 Nov 2013, 14:50
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!
Feng    18 Dec 2012, 23:53
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
Michael    08 Nov 2012, 17:03
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.
Mandey    03 Nov 2012, 14:57
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?
Jim    29 Oct 2012, 01:32
Thank you, very helpful
Jeff    25 Oct 2012, 07:46
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!!!
Aaron    26 Sep 2012, 20:55
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.
khadija Begum    28 Jul 2012, 16:45
very helpful, Thanks!
Oure    04 Jun 2012, 22:29
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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