International Standards for Punctuation.

corybates's picture

At the company I work at, we are starting to work with international offices, reproducing the products we create into several languages worldwide. In doing so, we have hit a couple of stumbling blocks. The main issue we are having is punctuation in European countries, it seems to vary so much and we can't seem to lock down a standard across the board. We want to keep the consideration of the culture of course (i.e., French, German, Spanish), but we would like a consistently designed product for branding purposes.

The main issues are punctuation. In North America, we hang the punctuation and would like to make this the standard across our products, but we are meeting some resistance. Also, in many cases, there is a space before end punctuation (i.e., question mark or exclamation point), but this isn't always happening. So I would like to get some consensus on these as I have done some searching on International Typography Standards, and have had difficulty nailing anything solid down.

If there are any European designers with experience in Typography, or any Typographers with International experience, I would really appreciate your input.

Again, the main issue is we want to standardize our typography based on our North American foundation, but not at the expense of the country's history and culture.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Hello Cory,

I’m afraid you can’t standardize those habits/rules. ‘Detailtypografie’ by Friedrich Forssman and Ralf de Jong has a chapter dedicated to those particularities of a number of languages (English, Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, French, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, Czech, Ancient Greek, Fnnish, Hungarian, Turkish). It adresses special (accented) characters, quotation marks, punctuation (spacing) and several other details worth knowing of, like capitalization or hyphenation rules. The book is only available in German so far, and it is not very cheap, but it still might be of great help to you.

corybates's picture

Hi Florian, thank you for your input, any information we can get is helpful. Do you know, specifically regarding hanging punctuation, if that is common European practice? I am aware that it is not always quotes as we have in North America, but would like to know if that can be consistent, or if it just doesn't make sense.

Florian Hardwig's picture

AFAIK, hanging punctuation has not so much to do with languages as it does with the awareness for typographic quality. In German, it is known as Randausgleich [margin alignment]. The aforementioned Detailtypografie says: Hanging punctuatiuon, i.e. outdenting quotation marks etc. by their full width, should only be considered for a few large lines.

speter's picture

Hanging punctuatiuon, i.e. outdenting quotation marks etc. by their full width, should only be considered for a few large lines.

True, but the punctuation need not hang so much to produce good results.

corybates's picture

That's my feeling Florian. I was just looking for some confirmation that, visually, having the text fully aligned is okay and not breaking any cultural rules. Your input is very helpful, thank you again!

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