Monday, December 18, 2006
A reader asked me today why lawyers use French spacing. I confess, although I apparently have been using French spacing since I first took a high school typing class in 1973, I had not previously heard the term "French spacing." I did know that putting two spaces after a comma and a semi-colon had something to do with the limitations of the old typewriter. Some general information on French spacing is quickly available at:
I have now been persuaded by my legal writing professor colleagues that the two spaces are not necessary any longer, since most wordprocessing fonts are not mono-spaced (wordprocessing kerns automatically), and typeset books and documents for the most part have used just the one space for a long, long time. In other words, now that we can use the one space easily and not slow down readers, there's no reason not to. And that's what I tell my students.
Lawyers do tend to be conservative in matters like spacing and other graphics on the page, so much legal writing will likely retain the French spacing for at least another generation.