I am a Frenchie and an English enthusiast. In my language, we use spaces before quotation marks, exclamation marks, and colons.

While I'm aware that this is not the case in English, there are times when, having written in French before, I'll forget about it and use a space before a quotation mark in an English sentence.

Thus: How would a native British/American person perceive my misuse of punctuation spacing, knowing that I'm not a native English-speaking person ?

Would it be something along the lines of "That guy can't even space properly" or "Well, he's an alien, we can't blame him for that"?

More precisely, I'm asking this if I ever were to work in the UK or the US for the first time, and emailed my boss with such a "mistake".

  • @Sumelic: I wondered about it and left it that way. Thanks for pointing it out!
    – Azami
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 9:07
  • I'm not sure if people would necessarily know that it was a trait from another language. I certainly wouldn't have. Any French I learned was before personal computing was a thing, so typographic differences in language were never discussed. I would have assumed it was a personal peculiarity and only raised it if you were going to be producing texts for wider distribution.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 9:33
  • 1
    The average British person would probably not notice; someone on this site might well think What are the style guides recommending now? Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 9:34
  • I would guess that you are "spacey".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 12:03
  • 1
    I'm surprised that you worry about this. As an English speaker learning French at the AF, I type my French homework (on MS Word) with the document language set to French. Spaces are then automatically inserted if I type a question mark etc.. (And I can do a spelling and grammar check.) Surely you don't insert spaces manually when typing in French?
    – David
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


Having come across this before, I'd barely notice it in an otherwise well-written email, especially someone whose name suggested that they weren't a native writer of English (yours may or may not do that IRL).

I've seen all sorts of punctuation errors from people for whom English is their first and only language, even in writing that's serious enough to be worth checking. The only time I would point it out (or care) is when proof reading it, perhaps as a co-author.

  • 1
    In the era of computers that is meaning you do not know the use of a computer. Why? Because word processors are wrapping text on the last spacing in the row, and your quotation marks, exclamation marks, and colons could have been very often widows = wrapped alone in the new row.
    – b2ok
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 21:04
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    @b2ok plenty of software I've used does stupid things with wrapping anyway (less so now, though SwiftKey likes to put a spurious space before punctuation, which is comparable). It's also correct to use a space before a colon in German for example, and software isn't bright enough to deal with mixed-language emails. I've actually written line wrapping code, so I'm quite tempted to tell you where to put your "do not know the use of a computer"
    – Chris H
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 21:23

I think that most of the English speakers would not notice to much. Since most of our written communication is typed, if they did notice they most likely would be wondering why the spell check did not catch the "error".

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