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I have often seen posts on various Stack Exchange sites that have spaces around punctuation marks. For example:

Here , spaces around a comma.

A space before a question mark ?

I think I've only seen them preceding question or exclamation marks and around commas and not before full stops but I may just have missed them. Since this is something I come across quite often, I assume that the OP's native language is written this way.

So, are there any languages whose writing system require spaces around commas and before question marks? If so, what languages are these?


Please note that I am assuming the answer will be a family of languages. If, instead, I am asking for a long list, please let me know and close as too broad.

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    Spaces and punctuation are not part of a language, but of its writing system, so such a rule might be initiated and enforced by any publisher or editor who cared to do so. But I know of no reason why it would, nor of any other situation where it occurs. – jlawler Jun 20 '15 at 14:35
  • @jlawler thanks, edited accordingly. Still, of the few languages I am relatively fluent in, none allow spaces around punctuation. Are you suggesting that, even in English, that might be considered "correct" and only depends on ones publisher? – terdon Jun 20 '15 at 14:51
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    Anything at all may be considered "correct", because that's a matter of opinion; and those who are paying the writers get to enforce their opinions. – jlawler Jun 20 '15 at 14:57
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    Even as edited, this is a question about orthography, not about languages, and certainly not about families of languages. Perhaps you are not aware that the languages of the Indo-European family are written in lots of completely different scripts: Latin, Cyrilic, Greek, Armenian, Perso-Arabic, Devanagari etc. – fdb Jun 20 '15 at 15:59
  • @fdb yes, I am well aware of that, I'm a native speaker of Greek and English :) I guess it is about orthography, yes. Though not so much about spelling but about the broader writing conventions. Does that mean the question is off topic here? Please let me know if so, I am not very familiar with this site's scope but had understood that writing systems were on topic. – terdon Jun 20 '15 at 16:14
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As far as I know, adding spacing before some punctuation marks (not all of them) is done by French and Indians.

In this comment1, it is stated that the earlier editions of the English grammar books (whose authors were P.C. Wren & H. Martin) featured such spaces before some punctuation marks, and that might explain why the habit stuck and the learners kept using it. These books, or rather their updated versions, are still in use in many schools.

Concerning French, this is the explanation given on Orthotypographie by Jean-Pierre Lacroux (translated):

[…] this convention is motivated, useful, efficient, badly subtle. As you may know – and as anticipated by typographers from the old ages –, readers do not read letter by letter. Words have ‘outlines’. When so-called ‘high’ punctuation marks (; : ! ?) are placed right next to a word, they affect its shape, thereby hampering the reader's perception, be it by a minor or an important factor. This phenomenon is not to be feared with lower punctuation marks (. , ).

See Nikana Reklawyks's answer and its relevant question on French SE for more detail.


1: author is N/A, but his screen name was AnIndianGuy.

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