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punctuation rules in English

Discussion in 'English Only' started by yayoo60, Jun 15, 2006.

  1. yayoo60

    yayoo60 Junior Member

    Paris, France
    French/France
    Hello,

    I have always been very strict as for French punctuation and where to place them : always put a space before an exclamation mark, before an interrogation mark, before a semi-colon, before a colon. As such :

    je lui ai dit : "bonjour"
    comment t'appelles-tu ?
    Mary !

    But I seem to remember that a teacher told us that it was different in every language.
    Could someone inform me about these rules in the English language ?

    Thank you.
     
  2. Cracker Jack Senior Member

    In English, there is no need to put a space between a word and a punctuation mark.
     
  3. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    A bit stronger - I would say you should not put the space (at least I'vd never seen it in English).
     
  4. texasweed

    texasweed Senior Member

    La La Land
    French-born/US English
    Except for a space after a period or comma, Tim! Open any book : it's for the sake of readibility! Especially for small texts !
     
  5. yayoo60

    yayoo60 Junior Member

    Paris, France
    French/France
    texasweed, you put a space before the colon, was it voluntary?
     
  6. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Maybe I could take advantage to ask a question that has been bothering me for some time (if it makes sense).

    In BrE, do you use inverted commas ' or " ?
    I seem to see both, I'm very confused. I thought it was only ' and " in AmE but I don't know anymore...
     
  7. texasweed

    texasweed Senior Member

    La La Land
    French-born/US English
    I always use spaces (even if it's not "right") : it makes for easier reading.
     
  8. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    Hold on! In BE there is one space after a comma, two spaces after a full stop, two spaces (controversial) after a colon, and one space(controversial) after a semi colon. None before.
     
  9. yayoo60

    yayoo60 Junior Member

    Paris, France
    French/France
    A teacher of mine taught me this one recently:the British use '...', in the US, they use "...".
    The British call them inverted commas, and the Americans call it quotation marks.

    As for a quotation inside of quotation marks, you use inverted commas, as such:

    She said, "Please don't tell me this so-called 'story' again!". Then she left.

    I'm not sure how the British do it, but I'm pretty sure that's how the Americans do it.
     
  10. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    True, true Texasweed - but I think that yayoo is asking about whether to have a space between a word and the punctuation - not whether you have a space after the punctuation. Afterwards - absolutely, you would have the space.:)

    He said -
    Actually - in writing this here is one that takes a space before it - "-":)
     
  11. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Looks good to me too.:)
     
  12. in english we dont usually include a space in between a word and punctuation mark but it does look neat on the computer and it won't harm,people will still know what you are talking about so its a matter of personal opinionhope this helps
     
  13. yayoo60

    yayoo60 Junior Member

    Paris, France
    French/France
    Thank you all for your answers! I will try to use them as perfectly as I can. Though I will have to work really hard for this: I am so used to the French rules...

    Doing good so far, don't you think?
     
  14. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    You really need to put the spaces where standard English suggests, otherwise you might make a bad impression.
     
  15. yayoo60

    yayoo60 Junior Member

    Paris, France
    French/France
    Yes that's what I'm trying to do. I think it's the same in every language, punctuation has quite a big importance. Never neglect it. Read Eats, Shoots and Leaves to understand why.
     
  16. i think you have done quite good so far,i couldn't tell you were french!
     
  17. yayoo60

    yayoo60 Junior Member

    Paris, France
    French/France
    Well thank you! This is the best compliment I can get. Thank you very much!
     
  18. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Englishrose - I'm not sure if you are avoiding standard punctuation to make a point - but it is a rule on WordReference that we must use standard punctuation, including capital letters where appropriate. This is partly out of respect for the foreign learners who want to see what is acceptable. Please use them.

    Thank you

    Timpeac (moderator).
     
  19. ericscot Senior Member

    I think AE rules are more or less the same as these, but there is a trend in some circles toward one space everywhere. I've had it explained to me that previous spacing rules had to do with equal space between characters on older typing equipment. So the space alotted to a W was the same space given to an I. Apparently, the extra space after a full stop, for example, made it easier for your brain to tell there was a new sentence. Now, proportional kerning is possible, and the need for extra spaces has diminished.

    There are a couple of nice advantages to the one space rule. In a word processing document, you can easily edit out accidental extra spaces by doing a find and replace. I've also heard that newspapers like the space saved by removing extraneous white space.
     
  20. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    That is interesting, ericscott.

    Yayoo60, I have read Eats Shoots and Leaves and would recommend it to anyone who would like to brush up on punctuation by reading an informative book written in conversational style.
     
  21. yayoo60

    yayoo60 Junior Member

    Paris, France
    French/France
    Yes, I read it a year ago, and I really really liked it. It is too bad though that no such books exist in French, because I'd really like to read that kind of book on French punctuation.
    Anyway, I recommend it to anyone as well, it is really interesting, and written in a funny way (beginning with the title!).
     
  22. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    OK, it's what I thought but I have seen " in three different English newspapers, hence my confusion.
    And inverted commas in an American novel, but may be the British edition though.
     
  23. KittyCatty

    KittyCatty Senior Member

    Cambridge
    English UK
    Actually, the terms quotation marks and inverted commas are both used in British English and are interchangeable. This explains why DearPrudence has seen both, because we use both! In essays, normally I use '...' but recently I have taken to "..." and my English teacher, giving advice on essay technique simply said it was a matter of personal choice, as long as you are consistent in the same bit of work.
    Yes, we do alternate within a speech mark: e.g. "He said he was 'over the moon' yesterday".
    OR 'He said he was "over the moon" yesterday'.
    With most punctuation marks, including full stops, I leave no spaces before it but one after it. The exception is dashes where there are spaces either side e.g.
    The dash - not the full stop - has a space either side.

    And then there's the bracket: The dash (not the full stop) has a space either side.
    I've even managed to use a colon to show you how I write that! And I'll give you a semi-colon if you like:
    I hope this has helped you!
    KittyCatty
     
  24. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Although there is a general overall consistency, when it comes to detail the punctuation rules in English vary.
    They vary from country to country, and within countries different publications or institutions will have different rules.
    CLICK HERE for a useful summary of English English punctuation rules - sorry, for one set of English English punctuation rules

    Some of the areas of variation have been illustrated in this thread already. There are more, and you will find energetic discussions on some of these in the various punctuation threads just waiting here for the eager researcher:

    Usage of double and single quote ("... " & '...')

    questions and quotes?

    commas, full stops, and quotation marks

    About punctuation....

    punctuation (urgent)
     
  25. texasweed

    texasweed Senior Member

    La La Land
    French-born/US English
    Still on my all American book by the O'shaughnessy sisters, I happened so far upon two instances of double "--" between words (this font breaks it into 2 small dashes, but it's with unbroken long dashes in the book)

    I cannot understand why! Perhaps due to an hesitation? To add emphasis?

    "Ms Zack is--what? An archaist? A nihilist?"

    " 'You got off easy,' the doctor had reported with cool interest. 'A slight concussion, a simple leg fracture, a tear in the anterior ligament of the knee'--the bad knee, the one he had babied ever since he'd torn another ligament...

    Note that all other dashes used in the text are standard word space dash space word.

    Your opinion(s)?
     
  26. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Some writers use -- for a dash to indicate an em-dash to the typesetter. If I can find the thread here where this was pointed out to me I'll give a link - it was explained rather more coherently there;)

    I found it:

    Some small questions
     
  27. texasweed

    texasweed Senior Member

    La La Land
    French-born/US English
    Thank you! See, I didn't know that was called an em-dash. With the name alone, I found it immediately on Google.

    Now going to read that thread. You're really good panjandrum :thumbsup:
    And so kind too. And so thourough. And then some :)
     
  28. maxiogee Senior Member

    imithe
    You ought to be able to achieve this effect on your computer — as against - by using the alt and shift key when you press the hyphen key.
     
  29. texasweed

    texasweed Senior Member

    La La Land
    French-born/US English

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