punctuation rules in English

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yayoo60

Member
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.
 
  • timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Cracker Jack said:
    In English, there is no need to put a space between a word and a punctuation mark.
    A bit stronger - I would say you should not put the space (at least I'vd never seen it in English).
     

    texasweed

    Banned
    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 !
     

    DearPrudence

    Dépêche Mod (AL 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...
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    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.
     

    yayoo60

    Member
    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.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    texasweed said:
    Except for a space after a period or comma, Tim! Open any book : it's for the sake of readibility! Especially for small texts !
    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 -
    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 :
    Actually - in writing this here is one that takes a space before it - "-":)
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    yayoo60 said:
    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.
    Looks good to me too.:)
     

    yayoo60

    Member
    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?
     

    yayoo60

    Member
    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.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    englishrose18 said:
    i think you have done quite good so far,i couldn't tell you were french!
    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).
     

    ericscot

    Senior Member
    emma42 said:
    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.
    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.
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    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.
     

    yayoo60

    Member
    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!).
     

    DearPrudence

    Dépêche Mod (AL mod)
    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    yayoo60 said:
    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.
    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.
     

    KittyCatty

    Senior Member
    English UK
    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.
    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:
    Anyway, I recommend it to anyone as well; it is really interesting, and written in a funny way (beginning with the title!).
    I hope this has helped you!
    KittyCatty
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    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)
     

    texasweed

    Banned
    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)?
     

    texasweed

    Banned
    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 :)
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    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.
     
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