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Say I have a sentence like this:

"Ouah ! Tu as vu ce grand saut papa ?" dit David en regardant les gros Monster Trucks du grand stade. "Il a sûrement sauté au-dessus de 10 voitures !"

Do I have the spaces in the correct spots? Or should it be like this instead?

"Ouah ! Tu as vu ce grand saut papa ? " dit David en regardant les gros Monster Trucks du grand stade. "Il a sûrement sauté au-dessus de 10 voitures ! "

For a bit of context, I'm a programmer who's helping to translate the children's books we sell at work. I don't know more than a few words of French but I want to understand the rules around punctuation and quotation marks (and when to break the rules!). I've googled but I can only seem to find information about spaces around punctuation other than quotes.

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    Les dispositions du clavier BÉPO bepo.fr/wiki/Accueil , disponible par défaut sur Linux, peuvent être adaptées sur n'importe quel système, il n'est pas nécessaire de changer de clavier (même si cela est beaucoup plus confortable lorsqu'on utilise des accents hors norme) et l'apprentissage des nouvelles place des touches se fait rapidement … il faut trouver le moment opportun et ne plus revenir en arrière (de toute façon, on n’en a plus envie :-) — <HTML …( { [ ] } ) > ; « Vous avez dit ‘zut’ et ensuite “ ce clavier est sympa je dois "coder les chaines de caractères" ” » Pas de Pb – Personne Mar 25 at 10:39
  • … sans oublier „ ≤ ≥ – Personne Mar 25 at 10:39
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The general rule is that you use French quotation marks (angled: chevron double « ... ») in French language text (BDL, Termium, Wikipédia, Wikipedia). The quoted text is typically separated from the quotation mark by a non-breaking space (Wikipédia, BDL, Termium). You might find other types of quotation marks inside quoted text, such as the typical English quotation marks ("...") which has no space separating it from the text.

« Ouah ! Tu as vu ce grand saut papa ? » dit David en regardant les gros Monster Trucks du grand stade. « Il a sûrement sauté au-dessus de 10 voitures ! »

Quote inside a quote:

Voici comment le journaliste rapporte ses propos et ceux de la députée : « J’avais fait la déclaration suivante au bulletin de nouvelles : ‘‘Elle a accusé le ministre d’être ‘menteur et hypocrite’ à la Chambre des communes.’’ Ce n’est donc pas moi qui ai traité le ministre de menteur et d’hypocrite, mais bien la députée. » (from the BDL)

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  • I should have mentioned in the question, the reason I'm using English quotation marks is because ideally we want to use our existing fonts, and our fonts don't typically include French guillemets. So with English quotation marks, it would be more like my first example? – Clonkex Mar 25 at 1:47
  • @Clonkex Indeed those don't require any space surrounding the text. – baie d'euzellecité Mar 25 at 1:53
  • @Clonkex Seemingly it makes more sense to have a spacing usage with each type of mark irrespective of substitution. Maybe it changes the question a little bit. You can still edit if you want and add that extra bit and see if you get more feedback. – baie d'euzellecité Mar 25 at 2:07
  • Awesome, thanks. The simpler we can keep things, the better. It's already a massive job translating an entire website when none of us speak anything except English. When we've got the first batch of books translated and we're happy that everything's working and nothing is exploding too badly, we'll come back see about getting more "correct" French if necessary. And of course if we make any significant mistakes, our customers will certainly let us know! :P – Clonkex Mar 25 at 2:20
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That would be:

« Ouah ! Tu as vu ce grand saut papa ? » dit David en regardant les gros Monster Trucks du grand stade. « Il a sûrement sauté au-dessus de dix voitures ! »

Note that "computer quotes" are often used, one reason being French quotes are not directly available (if ever) on most French keyboards. Note also that in Canadian French, there is usually no space before an exclamation or question mark while in France, a non breakable space (thin/narrow if available) is required.

See also: How are the spaces done in France for ? ! : ; « » in a real-life work-flow?

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