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Monday, 31 May 2010

Punctuation Epiphany

Today, I found the answer to a question I've been asking myself for a while now. Everytime I'm sending one of my interviews for Book Blogging Around The World or to authors or else, I noticed that almost every person who answered it changed a little something in the interview. And it involved punctuation.

When writing a question or an exclamation, I've always put a space before the exclamation point or the interrogation point.

Example : Where do you live ? Do tell us !

When I receive the interviews with the answers, many bloggers deleted the space.

Example : Where do you live? Do tell us!

This, my friends, has been troubling me. :)
I thought that I had it all wrong and that I had always been mistaken as for the use of punctuation and spaces. Each time I saw that the person I'd interviewed had changed what I had written, I felt embarassed. But I never took the time to check what was the real rule.

Today, I decided to take a little punctuation lesson.
And guess what ? See, I did the space again
Nobody was wrong ! And yet again
Do you want an explanation ? Hum

Here it goes :

In French, a space is required both before and after all two- (or more) part punctuation marks and symbols, including : ; « » ! ? % $ #. This space is called "une espace fine insécable" and not "un espace". This rule is not the same in Great-Britain and North America, where the interrogation or exclamation points is located, without any space, right after the last letter of the sentence.

Do you know how relieved I felt when reading this ? The thing is, I've always been a top-student when it comes to spelling and all. I'm the one who corrects all my friends' letters or emails before they send it. So when I realized that I might be wrong on such an important punctuation thing, I was seriously worried.

So, this is a happy ending for everyone, we were all right and wrong at the same time ! We French people put a space, where you American or British people do not put a space. How funny is that ? I had no idea that these kind of rules could change from a country to another !

Now, the real question is : will I be able to throw my French reflexes out the window and NOT. PUT. A SPACE when I write in English? Oh, yes, I can!


  1. Haha, I had the same dilemme Charlotte! :-) In Hungarian and English I just put the? and ! right after the word, but when I wrote in French, Word always put a space between my quotation marks and I didn't understand it at first. So now we know that it is a French specialty, kind of like the German writing nouns with capital letters or the Spanish using ? and ! at the beginning and end of the sentence. :-)

  2. Punctuation rules are kind of scary, really, mostly because of how completely unstable it is.
    When I was growing up, in English class, we learned that after a sentence you you have to put two spaces between the end of the next sentence and the beginning of the one after. I still do this, but apparently the rule has changed. I don't know if the rule is just one now, though, or if both are still okay.
    And also, when you have three things in a row, like "I ate apples, bananas, and pears," we learned to punctuate like I just did, and it still annoys me when I see it without that last comma. Even though the rule has changed in English now, and that last comma is no longer needed.
    I wish they would just make punctuation rules and stick to them. For serious.

    (Oh, and I actually knew that about the French space thing, and it is SO hard for me to do that when I write in French because it just looks WRONG to me!)

  3. How interesting Charlotte! Punctuation is always something that bothers me when I write reviews. I swear that I use too many commas and not enough semi-colons. I need an editor LOL.

  4. Bahahahahahahahahahaha! That is FUNNY. Next time I accidentally do something like that I'm going to be like "I just did it the French way. It's cooler." See what my English teachers say to that! :P

  5. Hey Charlotte !
    Haha great post!
    I am a French working in London, I totally do the same mistake all the time... I edited my boss's book in French with an English version of Microsoft Word... Not the easiest thing !!!

  6. That's so funny to know. I didn't know that in other countries they do that differently. :)

  7. Tell me about it! I'm pulling my hair out about what the punctuation of dialogues should be when translating! The whole "à la ligne" thing, compulsory in french, really breaks the rythm of the english text... Oh well... One more hurdle to overcome... :)

  8. I did not know this! Hmmm... You'd think after all those years of French classes, I'd have come across this rule. I wonder if it applies to French Canadian French or if it's just European French...


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