FR: space before a colon, semicolon, question mark or exclamation point (: ; ? !)

Diablo919

Senior Member
US / English
What i'm referring to is why many spanish and french people put a space between their last word and a question mark. I've noticed mainly its a french thing, but why? I asked some people and they said they were taught like that.

Moderator note: Multiple threads have been merged to create this one. See also the following thread on the Français Seulement forum: espace avant les signes de ponctuation hauts/doubles (; : ? ! « »).
 
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  • Agnès E.

    Senior Member
    France, French
    The French punctuation requires a space before double signed punctuations marks such as:

    this one :
    this one ;
    this one ?
    this one !
    and this one %

    ;)
     

    claude123

    Senior Member
    France, French
    Agnès E. said:
    The French punctuation requires a space before double signed punctuations marks

    I thought so too Agnès, until I received this: http://bdl.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/bdl/gabarit_bdl.asp?t1=1&id=2039

    which is an attempt to adapt the typographic code to current means. They seem to say that there should be no space before a question mark and an exclamation mark, because we don't usually have access to "thin spaces", therefore we should put no space at all.
    What do you think ?
     
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    Sitaa

    Senior Member
    France French
    Hi all,

    I know that there are no space before the question mark in English, but I'm not sure about French.
    Is there a specific rule to follow?

    Thanks
     
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    Cyrrus

    Senior Member
    Yes, there is a space (feminine in this case : une espace), but not a 'normal' space, like the one you get when you hit the space key on a keyboard (but on web pages, there's no easy way to reproduce this special space). I think it's called 'une espace fine'. Microsoft Word can do it I think, though I don't know how because I don't use it.

    La question des espaces : http://www.etudes-litteraires.com/regles-de-ponctuation.php
     

    Sitaa

    Senior Member
    France French
    Apparently, it is called "une espace insecable" and can be done on windows using
    ALT + 0160
    I've tried but it doesn't really make any difference.. looks like a normal space
    I guess I will just use a normal space and make sure there is no "cutting" between the word and the question mark :)
     

    Agnès E.

    Senior Member
    France, French
    La typographie française implique en effet une espace devant chaque signe de ponctuation double (cela vaut donc aussi pour les guillemets et le pour cent ;) ). Cette espace doit logiquement être insécable, c'est-à-dire que le signe de ponctuation ne pourra pas être séparé du mot qui le précède par un retour à la ligne.

    Dans un traitement de texte, vous le voyez très bien si vous demandez la visualisation des codes (dans Word, cliquez dans la barre de menu sur le signe marquant un retour chariot, l'espèce de truc à deux barres verticales situé généralement à côté de la taille d'affichage du texte). Pour l'obtenir facilement dans Word, faites maj+ctrl+barre d'espacement. Au lieu d'un simple point (l'espace classique) vous verrez alors un rond, comme cela ° (espace insécable).

    :)
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    En Suisse, on emploie une fine (HTML =   / Unicode = U+2009) avant tous les signes doubles. En France, c'est pareil, sauf qu'on met une espace-mot insécable (HTML =   / Unicode = U+00A0) avant le deux-points (:).

    Signes doubles : ? ! ; : « »
     

    Diddlina

    Senior Member
    Iceland, Icelandic
    When I have the language set to french in Microsoft Word the question- and exclamationmarks don't wanna be right after the sentence. Word moves it.

    Like so!
    Become so !

    Is this some rule in french or is my Word just messed up?
     

    Annabelliann

    New Member
    English England
    Yes, that's normal in french - exclamation marks, question marks, colons and semi colons all have a space before them. Full stops don't though...
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    In French, you have to put a non-breaking space — or better: a non-breaking thin space — right before double punctuation marks such as ; : ? ! » and after «.
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    Thank you, didn't know that one. :) Is there any reason for it or is it just so?
    It's used for a better readability. It is better to write Cyril ! than Cyril! because in the latter example the exclamation mark is too close to the 'l' which is as high as the mark and hence could be confused with a letter belonging to the word Cyril

    Anyway, you may want to have a look at the forum resources here.
     

    spirals

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Not sure whether this belongs in this forum, sorry if it's wrong.

    In French text should there be a space between the last word and the question mark? If so, does this always apply and does it also apply to colons? Thanks

    eg. Aimerais-tu une glace ? (<<<space there)
     

    qwerty77

    New Member
    Français
    [at]spirals

    >>In French text should there be a space between the last word and the question mark?
    Answer: yes

    >>If so, does this always apply
    Answer: yes

    >>and does it also apply to colons?
    Answer: yes

    This is a "French" sample:
    Ceci est un example de ponctuation. Avez-vous des questions ? Ne vous découragez pas ! Il y a beaucoup de règles, incluant celle-ci : nous devons placer une espace fine (ou une espace simple) avant les deux-points.

    Eric
     

    Gswiss

    Senior Member
    french
    It's for esthetical reasons only. French used in Canada does not apply this blank rule at all.

    This is only true for French in France. In Canada, this rule does not apply at all.
     
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    renlog

    New Member
    France
    I thought so too Agnès, until I received this: http://bdl.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/bdl/gabar...p?t1=1&id=2039

    which is an attempt to adapt the typographic code to current means. They seem to say that there should be no space before a question mark and an exclamation mark, because we don't usually have access to "thin spaces", therefore we should put no space at all.
    What do you think ?

    This is French Canadian. The typographic rules are different for French from France.

    French (France):

    ? (space before)
    ! (space before)
    ; (space before)
    : (space before)

    French (Canada):

    ? (no space before)
    ! (no space before)
    ; (no space before)
    : (space before)
     
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    jourvel

    New Member
    English - United States
    In French, you have to put a non-breaking space — or better: a non-breaking thin space — right before double punctuation marks such as ; : ? ! » and after «.

    When does this rule not apply, then, if we are using various punctuation marks?

    Examples (underscores are used to emphasize the space):
    • M. Renard confirme_:_«_Notre boutique, c'est vraiment fantastique_!_»
    • Mme Dupont (la «_femme fatale_») est en toute réalité assez timide.
    • Elle crie «_75_%_!_» mais la bonne réponse est «_85_%_».
    • Je répétais ses mots («_Tu as seulement 50_€_!_») pendant que je faisais les courses.

    I find that some of these examples look a bit too "stretched out" with all these spaces separating all these punctuation marks. Can somebody please confirm what the standard in France is?
     

    olivier68

    Senior Member
    French Paris France
    The French standard, to the best of my knowledge, is given by the Imprimerie Nationale.
    You can find a summary, and the academic references (at the end of the text), here:

    Les règles typo­gra­phiques de la ponc­tua­tion française

    You can also have a look at the book by Drillon: "Traité de la ponctuation française" (dedicated however rather to the right use of ponctuation than to the use of spaces).
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    When does this rule not apply, then, if we are using various punctuation marks?
    The rule applies in all cases, even if there are multiple punctuation marks.

    By the way, please note that there must be a regular space after the colon:

    M. Renard confirme_: «_Notre boutique, c'est vraiment fantastique_!_»

    I find that some of these examples look a bit too "stretched out" with all these spaces separating all these punctuation marks.
    They aren't if using thin spaces. ;)
    • M. Renard confirme : « Notre boutique, c'est vraiment fantastique ! »
    • Mme Dupont (la « femme fatale ») est en toute réalité assez timide.
    • Elle crie « 75 % ! », mais la bonne réponse est « 85 % ».
    • Je répétais ses mots (« Tu as seulement 50 € ! ») pendant que je faisais les courses.
     
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