Appellate Insights

Dec 13, 2023 Gary J. Wax
One Space or Two?

Before the Computer Age, writers were instructed to type two spaces after every period.  The reason was to create a visual break so that it would be easier to see the beginning of each new sentence.  Many attorneys who learned to follow the two-space rule still insist on two spaces.  Whether you remain a vigilant two-spacer, or you reject the two-space rule, here are some points to consider:

  • Typewriters used “monospaced fonts,” making the letter “i” take up the same amount of space as the letter “m,” but these days computer programs use proportionally spaced fonts, so the rationale for typing two spaces has arguably disappeared.
  • Many style guides now instruct brief writers to type only one space after each sentence.  And, Microsoft Word now marks two spaces after a period as a grammatical error.
  • Web blogs devoted to legal writing regularly criticize “Boomers” and “Gen-Xers” for continuing to use two spaces because it “shows their age.”  On the other hand, many judges hail from those same generations.
  • Opinions published by the U.S. Supreme Court, the California Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the California Courts of Appeal still use two spaces after each period.

 The practical message.  Consider your audience.  If your audience is comprised of 20-somethings, by all means consider using one space.  But if you are writing a brief to persuade justices or judges sitting on appellate courts or even trial courts, stick to your two-spaced guns and block out the criticism.

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