How To Check Sentence Spacing in Word

Some writers want only one.  Others want two. Whether there should be one, two, or more spaces between sentences is a matter that is still being debated in many writing circles.  That is how important inter-sentential spacing is.  

The space or spaces between sentences is actually not just a matter of preference or style.  It is also an important feature of text that assists readability.  The space or spaces after the end-of-sentence punctuation mark is a signal to the reader that the sentence has ended, and, most importantly, it provides the reader a very brief pause in preparation for the upcoming thought to be expressed in the next sentence.  But, regardless of your style or preference for inter-sentential spacing is, the most important thing to keep in mind is consistency.  Inconsistency can distract the reader.  To check for consistency, you can use MS Word’s Spelling and Grammar checking feature.

First of all, unlike other word processors, MS Word does not automatically replace inter-sentential spacing according to a configuration setting.  If you type one space after a sentence and type two after the next, they remain like that.  The inconsistency will stick, unless you check for inconsistent spacing with Word’s Spelling and Grammar checker.  How do you check for such inconsistencies?

For all MS Word versions starting with MS Word 97 onwards, the secret is in the Tools menu.  When you click on the Tools menu, a list appears.  One item on that list is called “Options.” When that item is selected, a dialog box appears.  The dialog box has several tabs, one of which is called “Spelling & Grammar.” When the tab is selected, the options for spelling and grammar settings are shown.  Clicking the Settings button will show more options in another dialog box.  Under the “Required” section in this new dialog box, you can specify the number of mandatory spaces between sentences by selecting a number from the drop-down list beside the label “Spaces required between sentences.” For the new settings to become effective, the “OK” button must be clicked.  You will return to the “Options” dialog box, which you can close by clicking the “OK” button.

Once the rule for inter-sentential spaces has been applied, MS Word will mark all occurrences of inconsistency with the rule.  A green wavy line indicates any transgression to the rule.  By right-clicking on the green wavy line, you will be able to correct the sentence spacing inconsistency effortlessly.

Most users will find the method described above sufficient for their needs.  It is also possible to use MS Word’s Search and Replace function to automatically replace all occurrences of inconsistent spacing; however, this method can become tedious as you have to search for all occurrences of punctuation marks (e.g., exclamation points, question marks, quotation marks), as well.  There is also another technique that will automate the task of searching for and replacing inconsistent spacing between sentences, but the advanced method requires using a VBA macro script.

Whichever method you use, checking for sentence spacing inconsistency using MS Word is fairly easy.


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