RE: Exemplifying apostrophes

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Fri May 23 2008 - 06:18:18 CDT

  • Next message: John Hudson: "Re: Exemplifying apostrophes"

    John Hudson wrote:
    > A quick search suggests to me that while
    > > there's quite a bit of variety, French users do in fact frequently
    > > space out their semicolons.
    > Which is very unfortunate because it makes it impossible to
    > anticipate and provide a consistent layout-side solution, at
    > least for served text.

    It's not odd. You can anticipate the fact that the absence of spaces is
    considered bad in typesetted text (but correct in data files where
    semicolons are arbitrary list separators rather than normal punctuations),
    and the presence of spaces satisfies every reader. Now you can be lazy and
    forget to type spaces; but others will come later and will correct them for
    you (or a spell checker or word processor will make this job).

    If you consider the case of colons, the spacing before it is almost
    semantic: correct and expected when the colon is a punctuation, but
    incorrect when it is a unit symbol (e.g. in time notations). The spacing is
    also expected for the question mark at end of questions, but should not be
    there when it is a symbol replacing an unknown missing character (the
    spacing determines if this pucuation mark is really ending a sentence).

    The extra spacing is generally not entered in English only because most
    fonts today are made according to English typesetting rules where the
    traditional spacing was about 1/8 to 1/6 em in English (depending on the
    margin gaps already present in the punctuation type), but 1/6 to 1/4 em in
    classic French typography (so the spacing needed for English is present in
    the font itself and may be considered enough; it is still not enough for
    French typography).

    Generations of secretaries have been told to enter spaces on typewriters (in
    official programs in the 1950's to 1980's, they were badly noted if they
    forgot one of them in their documents) even if this was not needed with
    fixed-width text produced on old typewriters. This heritage is still very
    persistant, even if we no longer use typewriters but word processors and
    sgraphic printers.

    You can't easily make this "magic" within typesetting programs, because
    there are exceptions depending on humane interpretation and corrections. In
    addition there's still the case of "!!!" or "???" or "?!" or "?:" where
    multiple punctuation marks should not have extra spacing between them (the
    case is similar to dot leaders in ellipsis) but only before the group, as
    they are building a single, unbreakable notation (so the internal gap in
    fonts should be minimum, similar the margins present in other characters
    like letters and digits).

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