Spacing After A Period

Periods, Commas, and Semicolons

I’ve received a lot of questions about the spacing after a period in APA format.  One of the reasons students have been confused is due to a typo in the original 6th edition of the APA Manual.  Originally, the Manual did not make it clear whether there should be one or two spaces after a period ending a sentence.  Now that the Manual has been corrected, on page 87 of the Manual, it says:

“Insert one space after 1) commas, and semicolons; periods that separate parts of a reference citation and periods following the initials in personal names (e.g. J.R. Zhang).”

Further, in section 4.01 on page 88, the Manual explicitly states:

“Spacing twice after punctuation marks at the end of a sentence aids readers of draft manuscripts.”

Easy Editing

Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to miss a space here and there when we are in the midst of writing our paper.  An easy way to check your entire paper for correct spacing is by using the Find and Replace feature.  Here’s how:

  1. Open the “Find and Replace” feature in your word processor.
  2. If necessary, click the “Advanced” tab to open more options.
  3. Type a period “.” and then add one space in the “Find” box.
  4. In the Replace box, type a period and add two spaces.

When you press the “Find” button, your word processor will look for any pattern that matches a period with a single space after it.  Then it will ask if you want to replace it with a period followed by two spaces.

The great thing about this feature is that it will find every instance of a single space after a period.  But, as you probably know, there are times where a single space after a period is okay, so you will have to be diligent in when you choose to replace and when you choose to skip replacing punctuation that is already correct.  Another option is to highlight the text with your cursor that you want checked.  Thus, you can leave out your references page where all periods should only have a single space after them.

Periods in APA

To sum it up, following a period ending a sentence, always use two spaces.  Using periods after initials, in references, and elsewhere use only one space.  You can use your Find and Replace feature to check the spacing quickly throughout your entire paper.  Here are some other notes to keep in mind:

  • You should never have 3 spaces after any period.
  • You should never have just one space between the last word of a sentence and a period.
  • You should always have at least one space between a period and the next character.  There is never a case in APA format where a period is followed immediately by another character.
  • Never include a period with your page numbers.
  • End every sentence with a period followed by two spaces.
  • Do not use a period at the end of a URL on your reference page.

If you have other hints and tips for spacing after a period in APA format, feel free to write them in the comments below!


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