Typesetting In French

jennalawrence's picture

I recently started doing bilingual graphic design and am being faced with the trouble of typesetting in French. I feel I need to know more about the rules of French typesetting.
Anyone know of a good book I could buy or an online resource to get me started?
Thanks in advance for your help

david h's picture

Lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l'Imprimerie Nationale (2002)

and see this site

jennalawrence's picture

u rock!

Joshua Langman's picture

Also, the Chicago Manual of Style has very useful sections on multilingual typesetting, including specifics for French, as does Felici's Complete Manual of Typography.

jonworldaccent's picture

Are you doing French for France, Canada or somewhere else? I ask as there are differences in the typographic conventions.

For instance, both FRF (for France) and FRC (for Canada) use a thin space between a quote mark and the text being quoted. FRF also uses a thin space before an exclamation mark, but FRC generally doesn't.

So, for instance,

ENG: He said: "No!"
FRF: Il a dit : « Non ! »
FRC: Il a dit : « Non! »

(note: thin spaces are the prefered option for these "extra" spaces around punctuation and very easy to do in InDesign, etc. If you can't do a thin space, use a non-breaking space.)

I'm hoping to put a resource on my work French typesetting page soon. But if you are typesetting Canadian French, there is an excellent comprehensive PDF (in English) available to download here.

Let me know which area of the world you're targeting and I'll try to offer some more advice.

By the way, Felici's book (mentioned above) is a great read, I think.

philippe_g's picture

If you read french, a good resource is the website http://www.orthotypographie.fr/.

Michel Boyer's picture

> FRC: Il a dit : « Non! »

If you compare those two publications from the Quebec ministry of health and social services, one in English, the other in French, you can see that there is much more space before the ! in French than in English.


Another reference (in French): http://jacques-andre.fr/faqtypo/lessons.pdf


Michel Boyer's picture

From the Office québecois de la langue française, there is a link entitled La typographie; in particular, there is an article entitled Espacement avant et après les principaux signes de ponctuation et autres signes ou symboles.

jonworldaccent's picture

Interesting links, Michel. Always revealing to compare and contrast a French and English version of the same document.

I have always used no space before exclamation mark in FRC, and I still believe this is correct – in contrast to FRF where a thin space is always used. It's interesting that your link to Québec's La Banque de dépannage linguistique says that either is acceptable: "Pas d'espacement ou une espace fine" (No space or thin space).

So perhaps it's less of a firm rule, more a matter of taste?

It would be interesting to hear any further opinions on which is preferable, especially from French Canadian typesetters or designers...

Michel Boyer's picture

I would also like to know what the actual usage is. I personally use the thin space (I use the LaTeX babel package with the french option and it is automatically put where needed, and sometimes where not needed) and I feel it is lacking when I read documents without it, but it is definitely a matter of taste.

The way the Office puts it: "Si l’on dispose de l'espace fine, il est toutefois conseillé de l'utiliser devant le point-virgule, le point d'exclamation et le point d'interrogation" i.e. if you have access to a thin space, it is advised to use it in front of the semicolon, the exclamation mark and the interrogation mark. Now, who follows the advice? The 2010 French General Income Tax and Benefit Guide from Canada Revenue does not use it. Nor does the guide from Revenu Québec. Many pdf documents describing programs on my own campus (Université de Montréal) do not use it either. It would probably be ill advised to state that those that edited those documents were all mistaken.

As for the colon, a full space seems to be the standard; its use is advised by both the French imprimerie nationale and the Quebec Office de la langue française. The LaTeX babel package however provides the option \frenchbsetup{ThinColonSpace=true} that allows the user to opt for a thin space instead of a full space when the selected language is French (you can switch between languages as you like). Who asked for it, I don't know, but if it is there, someone must use it.

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