Typography and punctuation

Writing on computers, and moreover for the internet, has accelerated the mixture of typographic rules and punctuation between languages. Yet, typography is not just a matter of readability, it is an integral part of localization.


Used in both English and French in its parenthetic function, ie. to mark a nested clause or phrase, the em dash (—) follows different spacing rules: no space before and after in American English, non-breaking spaces before and after in French. The en dash (–) can replace the em dash in parenthetical expressions in English as in French, in which case a non-breaking space is set before each dash to get a better readability (and thus avoiding an unexpected newline).

Quotation marks

Guillemets or angled quotes (« ») are used in French, separated from their content by a non-breaking space, and in Spanish from Spain as in Portuguese from Portugal with no space. The English language uses double quotes (“ ”), as do the Spanish language used in Latin America and Brasilian Portuguese.

Non-breaking space

The non-breaking space is used in international French before some punctuation signs (:;?!) and only before the colons in Quebec.


As you can see from these three examples, the rules of punctuation and of typography differ between languages and cultures. Knowing these differences is to us an important element of a successful localization.

Useful links

Chicago Manual of Style
Petit guide typographique à l’usage de l’internet
Diccionario panhispánico de dudas
Libro de estilo de El País
Epítome de Gramática Portuguesa
Portal da Língua Portuguesa

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