As a general rule, in English there is no space before and one space after a punctuation mark. Exceptions follow.
No space before or after a decimal period between numerals:
- 10.6 million Canadians
A space before and none after a decimal period not preceded by a numeral:
- a .22 calibre rifle
A space after a period following a person’s initial:
- W. S. Avis
No space before or after a period in multiple numeration:
- subsection 2.5.12
No space before or after a period that is followed by a comma or a closing quotation mark, parenthesis or bracket:
- John Fraser Jr., Ellen Putniak and George Zeller were nominated.
- (See Chapter 21.)
No space before the periods following the capital letters in the official abbreviations of provinces and territories, and no space after such periods except the last one:
A space before, between and after ellipsis points:
- There was little he could say . . . so he said nothing.
Note: There is an alternative format for the ellipsis. It requires no spaces between the ellipsis points (…). However, a space is inserted before and after the ellipsis when it is used between two words (“Interviews … have”), between a comma and a word (“In fact, … we have”), or between end punctuation and the beginning of a new sentence (“fell drastically. … But”).
Question mark and exclamation mark
No space before or after a question or exclamation mark that is followed by a closing quotation mark, parenthesis or bracket:
- The delegate added, "Is it not high time we tightened our belts and dealt with the deficit?"
No space before or after a comma that is followed by a closing quotation mark:
- "Stop procrastinating," she said.
- The terms "interfacing," "conferencing" and "downsizing" are now part of the language of business.
No space before or after a comma used to separate triads in numbers (see Note 2 in 5.09 Decimal fractions):
No space before or after a colon used to express ratios or the time of day in the 24-hour system, or to separate chapter and verse, volume and page, act and scene in references to books, plays, etc.:
- a slope of 1:4
- We arrived at 15:30
- Psalms 39:5
Parentheses and brackets
One space before and none after an opening parenthesis or bracket within a sentence; no space before or after a closing parenthesis or bracket that is followed by a punctuation mark:
- Please read the enclosed booklet (Using Your Modem); it will help you take full advantage of your new communication tool.
No space before or between parentheses enclosing subsections, paragraphs, subparagraphs, etc., in citations from legislation:
- subparagraph 123(4)(b)(ii)
Em dash, en dash and hyphen
No space before or after these marks when they are inserted between words, a word and a numeral, or two numerals:
- I will support you in any way I can—even to the point of silence.
- a few 90-cent stamps
- pp. 134–200
No space before or after an oblique used between individual words, letters or symbols; one space before and after the oblique when one or both of the items it separates contain internal spacing:
- thesaurus / collocation dictionary
- Language and Society / Langue et société
No space before or after an apostrophe within a word.
One space before and none after an apostrophe used to indicate omitted figures in dates:
- the committee’s report
- the employees’ suggestions
- the class of ’79
One space before and none after an opening quotation mark within a sentence; no space before or after a closing quotation mark that is followed by a punctuation mark:
- The Minister spoke of "a full and frank discussion with all parties"; a resolution to the conflict is expected within the week.
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© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Public Services and Procurement
A tool created and made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada
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