Punctuation. Serious.

Following a comment in #wordpress, and a previous observation some weeks ago on the same thing, I have a question. In English, which of these is correct:

What time is it ?

What time is it?

And why.

13 thoughts on “Punctuation. Serious.

  1. I would say:
    What time is it?
    I can’t think of any reason for leaving a gap between the end of the word and the question mark.
    I’ve just referred to a book called Correct English, by J.E. Metcalfe & C. Astle, and although it doesn’t specifically say that there shouldn’t be a space, the examples it gives have no space. Punctuation isn’t my strong point, which is why I have the book!

  2. Technically? Either. However the space is only correct if you are 18th century printers 😉

    Even then not all of them did that. And they only did it to make it clearer, plus they didn’t use a full space. They used one of the variety of spaces that we can’t render online (or, for the most part, using a regular keyboard). The only two we you normally see is a regualr “breaking space” like between these words and the classic html entity   which is “Non Breaking Space” which would mean that (in theory) if you replaced all the spaces in my comment with it that the comment wouldn’t ever wrap.

    The question mark (and some other marks) and their placement is purely convention. Some puncuation rules (like where to put full stops when there is a quote) have reasoning, but this is pure convention.

    Modern convention dictates no space.

    Strangely it’s not about grammer, it’s about typography, any other questions? 😀

  3. From Wikipedia:

    Some people place a space between the end of their sentence and the question mark. This usage is thought to stem from the French language. In French a space is always placed before question marks, exclamation marks, as well as colons and semicolons. See Wikipedia French: Ponctuation. In English, however, the insertion of this extra blank space is generally considered bad form. The Oxford English Dictionary specifies that no space should precede the question mark. Some English language books may appear to have these spaces. But if you look closely you will see that they are not as wide as a normal space – they tend to be half to three-quarters wide. These don’t actually represent spaces as such; they were just a convention used by typesetters to make the text feel less cramped.

    After working in the technical publications industry for a few years, I must say I agree totally with this. Please don’t do it, Mark. It looks horrible.

  4. Basically: what Gregory says (except on the spelling-‘grammar’-with-an-‘e’ part ;-).

    I may add that, since it is typographic rules we are talking about, not grammatical or syntactical ones: there are no universal references, only local ones (“Houses” in the lingo). Usually at the scope of a big newspaper or printing house and followed by whoever cares to. As pointed above, no spacing before colons and question mark is standard US/British English fare. How you like it visually is, I suspect, heavily influenced by what you are used to see… Currently living in France, where typographic rules are much tighter (as most everything language-related round here) and state on this matter that every “double sign punctuation” (colons, semi-colons, question marks etc) *must* be preceded by a non-secable space, I have the hardest time getting used to seeing it, let alone use it in my own writing.

  5. The first one. No punctuation mark ever stands alone (i.e. with a space on either side), it always goes with a word or letter. That help? 🙂 Oh and I think the double space after an exclamation mark or question mark is simply to emphasise the beginning of a new sentence. You only ever put one space after a comma, colon, semi-colon, hyphen etc.

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