In graphic design, it is often the case that text may be presented over multiple lines for æsthetic purposes, and these lines may be in different sizes to emphasize part of the text over another or to create a uniform line length:

'The United States of America,' written with the final word in a larger text size and beneath the rest.

In English, where prepositions such as 'of' always take the form of a separate word, this layout seems natural. I have been struggling, however, with how to lay out a similar wordmark in French, where words such as 'de' and 'le' might be ellipsed prevocalically. Should the apostrophe-ended word remain on the previous line or be included in the second, and in the latter case, should it take the larger or the smaller size?

'Les États-Unis d'Amérique,' written with the final word in a larger text size and beneath the rest, and with the preposition 'd'' on the first line.

'Les États-Unis d'Amérique,' written with the final word and its preposition 'd'' in a larger text size and beneath the rest.

'Les États-Unis d'Amérique,' written with the final word and its preposition 'd'' beneath the rest: the preposition's size matching that of the first line, and 'Amérique' larger.

Obviously, as an issue of æsthetics, which looks best is largely subjective, but I wonder in general if one format or another might be preferable to the French reader.

I'm also specifically curious as to the first of the French examples above, with the d' split from its vowel-initial Amerique over multiple lines. Obviously this would be nonstandard in written text, but would it be acceptable in a logo or wordmark such as this? Or would it look strange or be difficult for a French reader to parse?


  • 2
    I find the first one repulsive due to the separation. I guess a proper comparison would be having "It's" split on two lines. It would be ugly.
    – ApplePie
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 1:47
  • The apostrophe, or ', shouldn't be used to cut words on several lines. I think I can find a source for you. Actually, in english you wouldn't write "wouldn' t" with the t on the next line.
    – SdaliM
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 4:43

1 Answer 1


All French style guides for editorial practices forbid splitting a word before or after an apostrophe. And they recommend to split the words according to the pronounced syllables. That makes two reasons not to split after l' or d'. Note it is the same in English (see the CMOS for example).

That is what says Le lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l’imprimerie nationale (one of the guides to typographical conventions used by French typographers) and this can be found in most style guides, e.g.:

  • On ne coupe pas avant ou après une apostrophe :
    Ce coureur a de l'avance. > ce coureur a de l'avan- ce. (Et non : de l' // avance ou de l // 'avance). Aujourd'hui > aujour- d'hui. (Et non : aujourd' // hui).
  • À la fin d'une ligne, on ne coupe pas les mots n'importe où, mais on le fait en fonction des syllabes.
    La syllabe correspond à une voyelle ou à une réunion de lettres qui se prononcent d'une seule émission de voix. (aidenet.eu)
  • Sont proscrites les coupures : [...] – avant ou après l’apostrophe : aujourd]’]hui – trait d]']union

  • Lorsque la coupure étymologique est impossible, la coupure se fait entre deux syllabes. (Petit Guide de typographie)

Moreover what are you are doing, is - or looks like - a headline. In French typography splitting a word in book titles, newspaper or article headlines, is considered bad style.

Pas de coupure dans les mots des titres
Observez un quotidien papier et ses nombreux titres et sous-titres. Point de césure à l’horizon, même les cas extrêmes. L’éditeur du journal adapte chaque titre (longueur et formatage) en fonction du niveau de visibilité souhaité mais aussi des contraintes de place. Le maquettiste ne se contente pas de coller simplement les titres mais de les adapter pour obtenir un équilibre visuel en évitant les césures de mot.

La coupure des mots doit être évitée dans les titres, dans l’affichage, dans les en-têtes de lettres, notamment dans les appellations d’organismes et de sociétés. [...] La coupure doit être exécutée au bon endroit afin de conserver les liens logiques entre les mots du titre ou de l’appellation, de garder ensemble les unités de sens. (BDL - Coupure dans les titres et les appellations)

Typographical conventions give us several reasons to rule out your first proposal. In my opinion the second one is by far the best, because of the respective balance between lines and words. But this is to be tempered by the final objective of the object you are creating.

  • Thanks for the insight. While your Lexique quotations clearly detail conventions around apostrophes (which, as noted, I was already aware of as far as normal written text goes), I'm actually a bit confused about the second set of quotes, since it implies that you, at least, view d'Amerique (in my example) as a single word, not as two words simply conjoined together. This would seem to contradict Le guide du rédacteur's usage in btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/redac-chap?lang=fra&info0=7.2.2 of the phrase l’« erreur », separating the ellipsed article from its quoted noun.
    – Meshaal
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 13:30
  • @Meshaal The page of BtB you're quoting is about placing quotation marks, not about word splitting. If we had to split it would go like that « l'er-reur ». When editing in French we go by syllables and l'erreur is two syllables (l'er/reur) - actually it is the same in English, if you look at the CMOS it says "such divisions are made between syllables, which should be determined by consulting a dictionary. Not all syllable breaks, however are acceptable... "
    – None
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 13:46
  • I know it's not directly about word splitting; I was merely illustrating that the citations regarding word splitting aren't relevant as these are two separate words, not one being split. If they were indeed one word subject to the word-splitting rules cited, writing l’« erreur »—or, indeed, d’« Amérique »—would be equivalent to writing is"n’t" in English. It's wholly tangential to my initial question, so I won't belabor the point, I merely brought it up as I don't feel the citations (aside from that first one directly speaking of apostrophes) relevant to the question at hand.
    – Meshaal
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 2:19
  • 1
    @Meshaal OK. I brought up the last point (about headlines & titles) because as I said "what are you are doing, is - or looks like - a headline." It was just to add a reason not to split "d'Amérique" which is seen as one word since "d'a" makes one syllable.
    – None
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 5:33

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