Consistent punctuation oddities

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Wed Apr 30 03:07:56 UTC 2008

>My French students put spaces before commas and periods.  I wonder if
>French word-processors treat the space as non-breaking?
Part of my day job involves handling documents in French, produced
usually -- but not always -- by translators. It's quite common but
not universal for the space before the colon, semicolon, question
mark, exclamation mark, and percent sign, and inside guillemets
(angle quotes) to be in the documents I receive as non-breaking.
(Note that not all francophones actually insert those spaces before,
however; the average fraoncophone is no more expert a user of his or
her language than the average anglophone is, and even French experts,
e.g., translators, disagree with each other all the time, usually
vehemently.) When the version the public gets to see is produced, of
course, they're always non-breaking.

To complicate things further, the space before some of these marks is
supposed to be a thin space. MS Word doesn't really accommodate those
agreeably, however, so that gets done in the layout. _Which_ ones get
a thin space is again a subject of often violent disagreement.

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society -

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