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I started using non-breaking spaces between a number and a unit of measure (10_ft), and within a name (Dr._John_Smith). I like the "look" of using non-breaking spaces to prevent titles from wrapping, but I don't know if it's technically correct or not. Is there a hard rule for this, or it a matter of style? Are their other circumstances when non-breaking spaces are usual?

Just in case it's news to anyone: you can enter a non-breaking space with Ctrl-Shift-Space in Word and Outlook, and possibly other applications.

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I really don't know whether to upvote or downvote this question. It certainly explores the margin between typesetting and language usage! –  FumbleFingers Jun 3 '11 at 23:50
    
@FumbleFingers: You have a point... –  Alenanno Jun 4 '11 at 0:00
    
@Alenanno: But I see your answer definitely moves that margin further into the world of typesetting! Me, I'm more with @Alex. In terms of actual usage, OP is already getting carried away with that hard space within John_Smith. Personally my rule of thumb is to ignore concerns about what the bit on the end of the first line would look like, and just worry about whether the bit at the start of the next line would be able to stand on its own. –  FumbleFingers Jun 4 '11 at 0:11
    
I know there's some info about how to "insert" a non-breaking space in my answer, but they give also examples about real usage (also mentioning unit of measures)... Is it that OT? :D –  Alenanno Jun 4 '11 at 0:14
    
Neutral vote - this is a typesetting question. That said, I think that is good typesetting practice, especially in relation to units. –  Marcin Jun 4 '11 at 10:38

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

(The symbol _ is called underscore. I guess you were using it to signal the actual non-breaking space which has no symbol.)

A non-breaking space is something else, and its usage is explained here and here:

  1. It is advisable to use a non-breaking space (also known as a hard space) to prevent the end-of-line displacement of elements that would be awkward at the beginning of a new line:
    • in expressions in which figures and abbreviations (or symbols) are separated by a space (e.g. 17 kg, AD 565, 2:50 pm);
    • between the date number and month name (e.g. 3 June or June 3); and
    • in other places where breaking across lines might be disruptive to the reader, especially in infoboxes, such as £11 billion, June 2011, 5° 24′ 21.12″ N, Boeing 747, after the number in a numbered address (e.g. 123 Fake Street) and before Roman numerals at the end of phrases (e.g. World War II and Pope Benedict XVI).
  2. A hard space can be produced with the HTML code  
    instead of the space bar: 19 kg yields a non-breaking 19 kg.
  3. A literal hard space, such as one of the Unicode non-breaking space characters, should not be used, since some web browsers will not load them properly when editing.
  4. Hard spaces can also be produced by using the {{nowrap}} template: {{nowrap|8 sq ft}} produces a non-breaking 8 sq ft. This is especially useful for short constructions requiring two or more hard spaces, as in the preceding example. Template {{nowrap}} has the disadvantage that if the enclosed text starts or ends with a space, these spaces are forced outside in the resulting HTML, and unpredicted breaks may occur. If   occurs right before {{nowrap}}, or at the start of text within {{nowrap}}, some browsers allow a break at that point.
  5. Unlike normal spaces, multiple hard spaces are not compressed by browsers into a single space.
  6. A non-breaking space should be used before a spaced en dash.
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Yes, as the hard-breaking space has no visual representation I used an underscore instead. Wikipedia's page is more of a style guide than an official rulebook, but it's as good as any! –  Jon of All Trades Jun 7 '11 at 12:45

One place where it's important is between a person's initials (e.g., J. Q. Adams), so that the J. and Q. don't end up separated. (A nonbreaking space isn't needed between the initials and the last name, though).

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I would have said standard practice would be not to have a space between J. and Q. in your example. But having just done a bit of googling for T.S. Elliot I find that maybe half of all references do it your way. It still seems wrong to me, but obviously it's a matter of style and personal choice. –  FumbleFingers Jun 4 '11 at 0:19

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