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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006. No paid posts.



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22.09.2021

Spacing in French: figuring out how to punctuate professionally

With the French edition of Lucire KSA now out, we’ve been hard at work on the second issue. The first was typeset by our colleagues in Cairo (with the copy subbed by me), but this time it falls on us, and I had to do a lot of research on French composition.
   There are pages all over the web on this, but nothing that seems to gather it all into one location. I guess I’m adding to the din, but at least it’s somewhere where I can find it.
   The issue we had today was spacing punctuation. I always knew the French space out question marks, exclamation marks, colons, and semicolons; as well as their guillemets. But by how much? And what happens to guillemets when you have a speaker who you are quoting for more than one paragraph?
   The following, which will appear in the next issue of Lucire KSA in French, and also online, is demonstrative:

   In online forums, it appears the spaces after opening guillemets and before closing guillemets, question marks, exclamation marks and semicolons are eighth ones. The one before the colon, however, is a full space, but a non-breaking one.
   I should note that the 1938 edition of Hart’s Rules, which was my first one, suggests a full space around the guillemets.
   When quoting a large passage of text, rather than put guillemets at the start of each line (which would be hard to set), the French do something similar to us. However, if a quotation continues on to a new paragraph, it doesn’t start with the usual opening guillemets («), but with the closing ones (»). That 1938 Hart’s disagrees, and doesn’t make this point, other than one should begin the new paragraph with guillemets, which I deduce are opening ones.
   If the full stop is part of the quotation then it appears within the guillemets; the full stop is suppressed if a comma follows in the sentence, e.g. (Hart’s example):

« C’est par le sang et par le fer que les États grandissent », a dit Bismarck.

   Sadly for us, newer Hart’s Rules (e.g. 2010) don’t go into any depth for non-English settings.
   Hart’s in 1938 also says there apparently is no space before the points de suspension (ellipses), which I notice French writers observe.
   Looking at competitors’ magazines gives no clarity. I happened to have two Vogue Paris issues in the office, from 1990 and 1995. The former adopts the same quotation marks as English, while the latter appears to have been typeset by different people who disagree on the house style.
   This is my fourth language so I’m happy to read corrections from more experienced professional compositors.

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Filed under: business, France, media, New Zealand, publishing, typography—Jack Yan @ 13.35

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