Space (punctuation) facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
In writing, a space ( ) is a blank area that separates words, sentences, syllables (in syllabification) and other written or printed glyphs (characters). Conventions for spacing vary among languages, and in some languages the spacing rules are complex.
Typesetting uses spaces of varying length for specific purposes. The typewriter, on the other hand, can accommodate only a limited number of keys. Most typewriters have only one width of space, obtained by pressing the space bar. Following widespread acceptance of the typewriter, some spacing and other typewriter conventions, which were based on the typewriter's mechanical limitations, have influenced professional typography and other designers of printed works.
Computer representation of text eliminates all mechanical and physical limitations in any sufficiently advanced character encoding environment (such as Unicode), where spaces of various widths, styles, or language characteristics (different space characters) are indicated with unique code points. Whitespace characters include spaces of various widths, including all those that professional typesetters employ.
Use in natural languages
Modern English uses a space to separate words, but not all languages follow this practice. Spaces were not used to separate words in Latin until roughly 600–800 CE. Ancient Hebrew and Arabic, while they did not use spacing, used word dividers partly to compensate in clarity for the lack of vowels. The earliest Greek script also used interpuncts to divide words rather than spacing, although this practice was soon displaced by the scriptura continua. The earliest signs of spacing between words appear in Latin, where it was used extremely rarely in some manuscripts and then altogether forgotten.
Word spacing was later used by Irish and Anglo-Saxon scribes. The creation of the Carolingian minuscule by Alcuin of York, where it originated and then spread to the rest of world, including modern Arabic and Hebrew. Indeed, the actions of these Irish and Anglo-Saxon scribes marked the dramatic shift for reading between antiquity and the modern period. Spacing would become standard in Renaissance Italy and France, and then Byzantium by the end of the 16th century; then entering into the Slavic languages in Cyrillic in the 17th century, and only in modern times entering modern Sanskrit. Traditionally, all CJK languages have no spaces: modern Chinese and Japanese (except when written with few or no kanji) do not; on the other hand, modern Korean uses spaces.
Languages with a Latin-derived alphabet have used various methods of sentence spacing since the advent of movable type in the 15th century.
- One space (some times called French spacing, q.v.). This is a common convention in most countries that use the ISO basic Latin alphabet for published and final written work, as well as digital (World Wide Web) media. Web browsers usually do not differentiate between single and multiple spaces in source code when displaying text, unless text is given a "white-space" CSS attribute. Without this being set, collapsing strings of spaces to a single space allows HTML source code to be spaced in a more machine-readable way, at the expense of control over spacing of the rendered page.
- Double space (English spacing). It is sometimes claimed that this convention stems from the use of the monospaced font on typewriters. However, instructions to use more spacing between sentences than words date back centuries, and two spaces on a typewriter was the closest approximation to typesetters' previous rules aimed at improving readability. Wider spacing continued to be used by both typesetters and typists until the Second World War, after which typesetters gradually transitioned to word spacing between sentences in published print, while typists continued the practice of using two spaces.
- One widened space, typically one-and-a-third to slightly less than twice as wide as a word space. This spacing was sometimes used in typesetting before the 19th century. It has also been used in other non-typewriter typesetting systems such as the Linotype machine and the TeX system. Modern computer-based digital fonts can adjust the spacing after terminal punctuation as well, creating a space slightly wider than a standard word space.
- No space. According to Lynne Truss, "young people" today using digital media "are now accustomed to following a full stop with a lower-case letter and no space". Also see Klempen.
There has been some controversy regarding the proper amount of sentence spacing in typeset material. The Elements of Typographic Style states that only a single word space is required for sentence spacing. Psychological studies suggest "readers benefit from having two spaces after periods."
Unit symbols and numbers
The International System of Units (SI) prescribes inserting a space between a number and a unit of measurement (being regarded as a multiplication sign) and between units in compound units, but never between a prefix and a base unit.
- 5.0 cm not 5.0cm or 5.0 c m
- 45 kg not 45kg or 45 k g
- 32 °C not 32°C or 32° C
- 20 kN m not 20 kNm or 20 k Nm
- π/2 rad not π/2rad or π / 2 rad
- 50 % not 50% (Note: % is not an SI unit, and many style guides do not follow this recommendation; note that 50% is used as adjective, e.g. to express concentration as in 50% acetic acid)
The SI also prescribes the use of thin space whenever thousands separators are used. Both a point or a comma are reserved as decimal markers.
- 1 000 000 000 000 (thin space) or 1000000 not 1,000,000 or 1.000.000
- 1 000 000 000 000 (regular space and significantly wider) should not be used
Types of spaces
- Figure space
- Hard space
- Non-breaking space
- Paren space
- Thin space
- Visible space
- Space (punctuation) § Notes
- Zero-width space
Space (punctuation) Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.