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In French, you traditionally put spacing between punctuation marks like the following: « » ? ; : %. In my mother tounge, we only put spacing before the percent sign (25 %; at least we normal users, typographers typesetting books might add thin spaces). However, they are quite often omitted in "dialogical writing" (e.g. in conversations on the internet) and for example personal blogs, but they are usually there in news articles (online) and printed documents (newspapers, books, etc.).

Since the space that should be used, not quite as wide as between words, is not easily accessible on a computer keyboard, I was wondering if the Francophones generally add their spacings (I guess a press on the space bar would be most common) or if this usage might be on the decline?

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3 Answers 3

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A bunch of questions on this site already address the usage of spaces around punctuation in French. For instance:

More can be found browsing the tag.

Usage varies among countries. In France at least your observations are correct; all “high punctuation marks” are preceded by spaces (some are thin spaces) according to standard typographic conventions.

(I'm not sure about %, which is not punctuation. I can only say that it is not commonly preceded by a space on electronic support. Some thin space might be found print, though I'm not sure; this needs to be confirmed.)

A large majority of French speakers from France use a space before a question mark, exclamation mark, colon or semi-colon, both in handwriting and typewriting. On a keyboard or on a phone most would use straight English quote marks (without spaces) because only those are available on a traditional keyboard. However, whenever one chooses to use proper French quotation marks, inner spacing is added, — let me say it once more — in France.

To sum it up, and now I think this statement is compatible with Switzerland, Belgium and Quebec usages as well, whenever a thin space would be expected in print, it is commonly replaced by a normal space when typed on a keyboard. Software is sometimes able to transform this normal space into a thin unbreakable space when appropriate.

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Unfortunately not all software is… meta.french.stackexchange.com/questions/347/…. –  Stéphane Gimenez Feb 25 at 10:26
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From what I could get, in Québec one types a thin space or no space at all. (bdl.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/bdl/gabarit_bdl.asp?id=2039) –  Alexandre Vaillancourt Feb 25 at 14:57

Personnaly, I'm using space bar in all the cases you've mentioned. Except sometimes before the percent sign.

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I use a non-breaking space (that would be option+space on my OS). It unfortunately is often wider than it should be, but I don’t know of any convenient way to type a narrow non-breaking space.

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