Turn Double Spaces into Single with Just a Click

Whether it’s a holdover from the old days or someone following APA’s guide from a few years ago, every editor will eventually see a manuscript that has two spaces after every period. Because modern layout software handles sentence spacing better than typewriters did, these double spaces are no longer necessary and can, in fact, create weirdly large spacing. One of the routine things an editor (or compositor) does is strip out those double spaces. But there’s no reason to be doing this by eye, one at a time. With a simple find and replace, MS Word can rid the file of these ancient artifacts with just a click.

How to Turn Two Spaces into One

  1. Open the Search (Navigation) panel and in the Find field, simply type two spaces. They’ll look like nothing on screen, but you’ll be able to move the cursor across them using the arrow keys.
  2. In the Replace field, type a single space.
  3. Click Replace All. Then click OK when Word brags about how many replacements it made.
  4. Keep clicking Replace All until Word tells you that zero replacements were made.

Troubleshooting

Turn off track changes before doing this and just leave a note that the change was made. Otherwise the tracked deletions will overwhelm the writers and hide substantive changes you’d actually like them to check. Of course, if your client forbids untracked changes, they’ve designed their own hell and are welcome to it.

If multiple spaces have been used to create paragraph indenting or (lord forbid) table alignment, all of that will be lost. Skim the original document (two-page view is great for this) or search it for three spaces to find any problem areas that you’ll have to reset with proper tab marks or hanging indents, or set as a proper table.

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For more tips on working with Find and Replace, start on p. 47 of the book.

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