Principles of Typography for different languages

Sometimes German students ask me how to do the typesetting of documents in English, French or Spanish. I’m not able to help them because I never learned to speak or write French or Spanish.

Different languages have different typographic rules to typeset documents.

  • For English documents one can read Robert Bringhurst’s “The Elements of Typographic Style” or
  • for German documents, for example, “Detailtypografie” by Friedrich Forssman and Ralf de Jong.

Do you know a document (book, article or URL) comparing the styles for some languages (English, German, French, …)?

Some examples:

  • abbreviations are written in German with a “Spatium” (a small space, in LaTeX: \,, for example: z.\,B. = e.g.), in English without any space,
  • abbreviations should not used in German at the beginning of a sentence (write the complete word(s), for example “Zum Beispiel”),
  • a dash in English is --- (in LaTeX) without spaces before and after the character, in German ~-- (with spaces, ~ is a space without the possibility of line breaking),
  • the quotation marks are different (English: “Foo” vs. German: „Bar“ vs. « Baz »; LaTeX package csquote),
  • vertical, horizontal and double rules in tables (LaTeX package booktabs),
  • in German the ampersand & is only allowed in company names (Paul & Söhne), in English I don’t know,
  • in German punctuation marks like !?., are written without a leading blank,
  • there are different style formatting footnotes in German (e.g. normal number, hanging, footnote text left justified or right left justified). Other languages?


The Complete Manual of Typography” by James Felici has sections on French, Spanish and Italian typographic conventions. They probably cover most of the important points. There is also a good discussion of the differences between American and British conventions.

The book is available as a PDF from Amazon and the publisher.

Source : Link , Question Author : Mensch , Answer Author : Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum

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