According to Unicode notes on French, narrow, non-breaking and plain spaces apply in accordance with stated punctuation rules, e.g. «NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE» before colons and plain space after:

Corentin : Pardon, madame, pour aller à la gare, s'il vous plaît ? [character inspector]

Can I safely replace all colons in text dialogues with "narrow space + colons"? Does it depend on context?

  • BTW en français « espace » est féminin quand on parle de typographie. Ici il faut entendre « une demi-espace insécable » avant ces signes de ponctuation :)
    – A.G.
    Jun 3 at 8:47

Yes before a colon, a (thin) space is always expected.

Note that before other two-stroke punctuation marks (semicolon, exclamation and question mark), when rendering the text on a system that doesn't make a difference between a thin space and a regular space (typically web pages), the norm differs between Québec and France.

The former one tells to use no space at all while in France, a regular space is expected.

More rules about spacing from the OQLF here.


Yes, you have to insert a space before:

  • : colon
  • ; semicolon
  • ! exclamation mark
  • ? question mark
  • » right quotation mark

and a space after:

  • « left quotation mark
  • 1
    What about the right quotation mark (»)?
    – LPH
    Oct 5 '20 at 8:39
  • @LPH: You're right, updated.
    – Toto
    Oct 5 '20 at 15:19

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