I always used to think that there should be a space between a word and a following exclamation mark or question mark. I'm not sure where I picked up the idea - several decades have passed since I started learning English in missionary school. In any case, I've noticed in recent years that most writers place either of the two punctuation marks right after the preceding word without any space in between. Is putting a space before ? or ! also an acceptable convention or have I simply been wrong all these years ?
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I always used to think that there should be a space between a word and a following exclamation mark or question mark. I'm not sure where I picked up the idea - several decades have passed since I started learning English in missionary school.

In French, there must be a space between a word and the following exclamation mark, question mark, semicolon, colon, as well as in the case of quotation marks (e.g., « word »).
But I have never been aware of such rules for English.
I always used to think that there should be a space between a word and a following exclamation mark or ... a space before ? or ! also an acceptable convention or have I simply been wrong all these years ?

I've seen it done, but it's always looked quite wrong to me it reads like a typographical affectation and any guides I've seen for non-native writers say "don't leave a space".
(Here's an example of one such guide:
http://www.learnenglish.de/grammar/punctuationtext.htm . I've no idea how authoritative that site is, but it's typical of the advice that's out there.)
I certainly can't see any reason why one would use a space before a question mark, but none before a full stop.

Cheers, Harvey
CanEng and BrEng, indiscriminately mixed
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I always used to think that there should be a ... have passed since I started learning English in missionary school.

In French, there must be a space between a word and the following exclamation mark, question mark, semicolon, colon, as well as in the case of quotation marks (e.g., « word »). But I have never been aware of such rules for English.

In any case, I've noticed in recent years that most ... or have I simply been wrong all these years ?

I don't know of any such rule, but I think a space would be considered a nuisance. However, whether in manual writing, or in typing, depending on the style of writing or the font, I have found myself inserting spaces, at times, to ease the reading say, between an apostrophe and double quotes, or single quotation mark followed by a double, or vice versa. On the internet, though, since one doesn't know the standard font that the viewer is using, it is probably better not to add spaces to separate text from punctuation.
Perhaps someone here can find info in one or the other of the popular publishing style manuals.
On 08 Jul 2008, pimpom wrote

I always used to think that there should be a ... or have I simply been wrong all these years ?

I've seen it done, but it's always looked quite wrong to me it reads like a typographical affectation ... such guide: http://www.learnenglish.de/grammar/punctuationtext.htm . I've no idea how authoritative that site is, but it's typical of the advice that's out there.)

One mistake on that page immediately caught my eye. In the topmost greyed area where it demonstrates proper usage of exclamation marks, it says "It was schocking!" A variant of Skitt's Law in action? Shocking! Emotion: smile
I certainly can't see any reason why one would use a space before a question mark, but none before a full stop.

Thanks to all who replied. No space it is, then!
One mistake on that page immediately caught my eye. In the topmost greyed area where it demonstrates proper usage of exclamation marks, it says "It was schocking!" A variant of Skitt's Law in action? Shocking! Emotion: smile

This mistake is caused by bad diet. It's the result of eating too much schocolate.
I certainly can't see any reason why one would use a space before a question mark, but none before a full stop.

Thanks to all who replied. No space it is, then!

If you are inclined to email me
for some reason, remove NOPSAM :-)
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I certainly can't see any reason why one would use a space before a question mark, but none before a full stop.

By chance, two books I've been dipping back into in the last few days both have the space before question marks, exclamation marks, colons, and semi-colons. They are the 1909 impression of the Everyman /Natural History of Selborne/ and the 1946 Penguin George Bernard Shaw /Black Girl in Search of God/. /The Complete Letter-Writer/ (perhaps of 1832, but my copy is incomplete) does it, too. At random from the shelves, I find an 1891 /Robbery Under Arms/ and the 1934 Nonesuch Swift do it, while a 1938 book on Australian bush life called /Flying Fox and Drifting Sand/ doesn't. More recent books don't use the space.

Mike.
I certainly can't see any reason why one would use a space before a question mark, but none before a full stop.

By chance, two books I've been dipping back into in the last few days both have the space before question ... 1938 book on Australian bush life called /Flying Fox and Drifting Sand/ doesn't. More recent books don't use the space.

I though I'd seen that somewhere. Walford's "Old and New London", published in the 1870s, does it as well as using what we now think of as the "American" convention of placing terminal punctuation inside quotation marks.
It's probably the association with 19th-century books that makes it appear, when I see it now, as an anachronistic affectation: it would be like seeing someone using the "Oxford-street" or "Tottenham Court- road" spellings.

Cheers, Harvey
CanEng and BrEng, indiscriminately mixed
I always used to think that there should be a ... have passed since I started learning English in missionary school.

In French, there must be a space between a word and the following exclamation mark, question mark, semicolon, colon, as well as in the case of quotation marks (e.g., « word »).

That still applies in formal French typography: the rule applies to any punctuation mark consisting of two or more parts (all the ones you mention, but not , or .). It should of course be a non-breaking space, so you mustn't, for example, allow a line break before a semicolon (though you'll often see it in web pages constructed by people who don't know about non-breaking spaces).
But I have never been aware of such rules for English.

There was certainly a rule in the past, but it fell into complete disue during the 20th century.

athel
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