In a recent test, I fixed a feature and I was given the document back because it was pointed out the following was not correct.

Name: Sandy Corporation

I was asked to do this

Name : Sandy Corporation

or do this

Name:Sandy Corporation

To me the first one looks technically correct and is more pleasing to the eye. Which one is correct from punctuation point of view?

Note the difference between all three is how much space should be left before and after the : symbol. Should it be equal on both sides or the first one is correct?

  • 3
    The third option (no space on either side) is certainly unacceptable. Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/4645/… Commented May 10, 2012 at 20:23
  • If you know English, you would know there is a difference between ? and :. The punctuation rules are different and they are used in different context.How are they duplicates?
    – TheTechGuy
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 20:25
  • 9
    Only the first one is correct in English. Though the second one is correct in some other languages, such as French (but again, not in English; a thin space would be traditionally correct before a colon, but never a full space). The third one is only correct in programming languages. See the linked question or just point your corrector to Wikipedia.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 20:26
  • 4
    @The crocodile hunter: did you actually read the top answer to that question? It covers colons as well. No ad hominem attacks.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 20:28
  • 3
    This conversation got a rather heated; it looks like someone was being a pain in the colon. ;^)
    – J.R.
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 21:18

5 Answers 5


Wikipedia suggests:

A thin space is traditionally placed before a colon and a thick space after it. In English-language modern high-volume commercial printing, no space is placed before a colon and a single space is placed after it. In French-language typing and printing, the traditional rules are preserved.

So the answer is: no space before it and one space after it.

  • A thin space is U+2009 THIN SPACE, generally a fifth of an em. Sometimes U+2006 SIX-PER-EM SPACE is used. That’s not the same as nothing. For a thick space, that’s likely to be U+2004 THREE-PER-EM SPACE — also known as “thick space”. Unicode encodes all kinds of spaces. It’s not just a choice of yes-a-space vs no-not-a-space.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 22:42
  • 2
    @tchrist: But none of those options are common today in English writing. The only common way this is spaced is as Peter suggests: no space, colon, space. This is unlike the situation in, say, French typography where thin spaces are still (I believe) common.
    – Charles
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 19:59
  • @Charles There’s a significant difference — many, in fact — between a typewriter and typesetting.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:04
  • @tchrist: Agreed. I write documents all the time (primarily in MS Word), and I wouldn't know how to do a short space (and keep it there). LaTeX or TeX, fine, but users of those or other typesetting programs are in the minority.
    – Peter K.
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 20:11
  • @tchrist: Did something that I wrote suggest otherwise?
    – Charles
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 4:55

The Chicago Manual of Style:

6.60 In typeset matter, no more than one space should follow a colon. Further, in some setting — as in a source citation between a volume and page number with no intervening date or issue number, a biblical citation, or a ratio — no space should follow a colon.

  • So both option one and three are technically correct. Option three, however, is only correct in certain contexts. Is that right?
    – Dante
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 23:10
  • 4
    @Andrew: yep. And the contexts where it is correct to not have a space following the colon do not include "Name:Sandy Corporation", because that is not a source citation, ratio, or biblical reference.
    – Marthaª
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 1:40

I found a more convincing answer here at Wikimania:

Don't put a space before a colon in titles or in sentences; it is bad grammar. It is fine if you are using the colon like a pipe or other divider between separate items such as in a horizontal list of links to separate pages. That is using the colon as a typographical element or decoration other than a colon and quite all right. In a title however, such as the title of a presentation, book or paper, there must be no space before the colon. Otherwise it breaks the title into two separate things which is wrong or simply bad grammar.


If you are trying to use a style similar to that of modern English printed literature, your first example is best. But spacing around a colon, or anywhere in a document for that matter, is a stylistic decision, not a grammatical one. Any of the forms you gave may be correct. Consult your local style guide. For example, if what you are writing will be machine readable, spacing might have to conform to a different standard.


No one has mentioned that the questioned punctuation is apparently de rigeur in the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data that appear on the Copyright page of most recent publications. For example, in a book I happened to have close at hand, the following lines (centered) appear:

Bittman, Mark. How to cook everything vegetarian : simple meatless recipes for great food / Mark Bittman ; Illustrations by Alan Witschonke.

Note that in this protocol even semicolons appear with space before and after.

I suspect that the above Library of Congress rules do not apply to the document the questioner was asked to correct, but perhaps some other situation-specific rules do.

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