Why do people leave a space before end of sentence punctuation?
March 27, 2004 12:01 PM   Subscribe

When (and where, and maybe why) did people start doing this ? Is it mostly a UK/Europe thing ? Is it only occasional or a valid trend now ?
(Another question about a grammar anomaly, but I'm not complaining this time, only curious. This one only occurs in informal [Internet] communication and for some reason I enjoy it: a space between sentence end and final punctuation, when punctuation is a '!' or '?' Mostly UK- and Ireland-ers do it, like sgt serenity [a mad Scotsman] here.)
posted by Shane to Society & Culture (22 answers total)
 
The French do it, and not only in informal settings.
posted by gleuschk at 12:19 PM on March 27, 2004


I mostly only do it when I'm ending a sentence with a code example or jargon of some sort:
You want me to just rm -rf ?
or
like sort {$h{$a} <=> $h{$b}} ?
but it does sometimes find its way into other sentences.
posted by duckstab at 12:20 PM on March 27, 2004


I t4end to do it if I'm baffled in some way, as in:

what the fuck ?

or if the sentance can be interpreted as either a question or simply a statement, like

You're serious ?

Basically to draw attention to the question mark for some reason.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:26 PM on March 27, 2004


I mostly only do it when I'm ending a sentence with a code example or jargon of some sort:
You want me to just rm -rf ?


I just naturally do it when I end a sentence with a URL, duckstab. Maybe coding or such is part of its origin in English ? Or maybe it came from the French, gleuschk ? It does draw attention to the mark, doesn't it, SC ?
Am I moderating my own thread too much when I add more qustions like this ? I hope not.
posted by Shane at 12:30 PM on March 27, 2004


I occasionally correspond (in English) with a German-born lady of a certain age who punctuates like this .It gets really hard to read when she misses the cap key on the next sentence .she has arthritic hands ,and I always assumed the unusual spacing was a holdover from German combined with no-longer-agile fingers ?i 've never mentioned it to her but she might be thrilled to learn she's part of a trend !
posted by Alylex at 1:53 PM on March 27, 2004


I have to admit to feeling the inclination to do it only recently. I have no idea why (other than that I might be picking it up from the universal mind).
It appears I've thought that the punctuation should be given its own space, like a word would receive.

The punctuation style I was most taken with when I read "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" recently, was the single-space pre-colon/semi-colon - double-space, post-colon/semi-colon. I'd demonstrate but MeFi strips out double-spaces.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:21 PM on March 27, 2004


I did it for quite a while but decided it was a bad habit and got rid of it. My personal reason for doing it was because of coding in C. I found that I could read my tri-graphs easier if I put a space between the ? and the condition. I've used way more tri-graphs than I've used question marks so it kind of carried over unconsciously. I was actually surprised when I saw other people doing it, they were usually people with a Computer Science background. I don't know if it's a Computer Science thing or not since that's not my background.
posted by substrate at 2:32 PM on March 27, 2004


They do it in French (and it should be a non-breaking space), but in Better Typography it's not a full word space, iIrc.
posted by Utilitaritron at 4:49 PM on March 27, 2004


It appears I've thought that the punctuation should be given its own space, like a word would receive.

That's interesting. You have your own definite logic for liking it, and to me that is the main thing. I think it appeals to me partially for the same reason (now that you've vocalized it for me), as well as the fact that it draws attention to the puncuation mark.

...or if the sentance can be interpreted as either a question or simply a statement, like . . . You're serious ?

BTW, Coyote, the question of whether it is proper to turn a declarative sentence into a question by adding a question mark (like that) was discussed here. I think it's perfectly fine. Then again, conversely, I was thinking tonight that sometimes "Who knows" is best expressed as a declarative sentence without a question mark, when it is said dejectedly to mean "No one knows."

I always assumed the unusual spacing was a holdover from German combined with no-longer-agile fingers ?i 've...

Heh, alylex!

Blue Stone :  I think I know what you mean ;-)

Thanks, all, for an interesting discussion...
posted by Shane at 6:34 PM on March 27, 2004


Blue Stone, is Eats, Shoots & Leaves out already? I thought it wasn't due until April. If it's on the shelf, I'm all over it. What in the world is a pre-colon? Guess I'll find out when I get the book, eh?

Thanks for a good question, Shane.
posted by Alylex at 9:57 PM on March 27, 2004


if we're just willy-nilly saying how we would like the question mark to be used with no regard to standard usage i like spanish's way of putting it around the whole sentence, like a modifier. it makes a lot more sense to me conceptually.

¿don't you think?
posted by rhyax at 11:24 PM on March 27, 2004


I've never prefaced a question mark with a space (except after code or URLs)... though I always preface a colon with one — as I find it's hard to see it otherwise.

The thing that drives me batty, though, is dropping final punctuation _within_ a quotation. I mean, aren't you ending the sentence in _addition_ to the quotation?

Oy vey.
posted by silusGROK at 11:59 PM on March 27, 2004


I've used way more tri-graphs than I've used question marks

what on earth are you coding??! (oops, i guess that should be \?\?! ;o)
posted by andrew cooke at 5:57 AM on March 28, 2004


I've never seen this done until this thread, except in situations similar to what duckstab described.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:50 AM on March 28, 2004


The French have some unusual typographical habits. They do not use full-spaces in doing so, though.

I think this habit of placing spaces before punctuation is abysmally stupid. If it really is being done, it is being done out of ignorance, I'm sure.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2004


Alylex, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" has been top of the UK hardback charts for months and months. Probably a delayed launch for the US.
posted by Blue Stone at 11:35 AM on March 28, 2004


talking about quotations i like this:

are you sure jane said "we're going to the store"?

better than this:

are you sure jane said "we're going to the store?"

and apparently both are now correct and acceptable? correct me if i'm wrong.
posted by rhyax at 12:55 PM on March 28, 2004


Blue Stone, I think, means as in "Jane went to the store and got :  eggs, milk and pears. They liked it ;  they ate it all up.
posted by abcde at 6:01 PM on March 28, 2004


Actually rhyax, spanish doesn't put it around the whole sentence. Just around the question part (well, that's assuming I remember high school spanish. Of course, the high school was in Mexico so I assume it was better than learning from Peggy Hill). I think this is wonderful.
e.g. Although it's a horrendous movie, ¿don't you want to see it with me?
posted by Octaviuz at 11:05 PM on March 28, 2004


are you sure jane said "we're going to the store"?

better than this:

are you sure jane said "we're going to the store?"

and apparently both are now correct and acceptable? correct me if i'm wrong.


If Jane is making a statement, then it's simple:

...are you sure jane said "we're going to the store"?

If Jane is asking a question ("we're going to the store?"), then the fun starts, and I might rewrite the sentence.
posted by Shane at 6:06 AM on March 29, 2004


Blue Stone: Yes, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" will not be released stateside until April. I saw several reviews last autumn and was puzzled when my bookstore kept telling me it wasn't available yet. Harrumph. If the publishers have "Americanized" it, there will be much more harrumphing, and amazon.uk will profit.
posted by Alylex at 7:07 AM on March 29, 2004


er...aye , watch your punctuation , or everyone will think you're a bit kooky , let me be a warning to you all !
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:22 AM on March 29, 2004


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