Should You Type Space After Comma?

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

In Chinese or Japanese language, space is rarely used. This is quite interesting linguistically.

Apple keyboard Japan
Apple keyboard Japan. Notice the space bar, span about only 3 key spaces. On English Apple keyboard, it spans 5 to 6. [see Apple Keyboards ⌨]

For example, here's the opening passage of the classic Chinese epic novel 西游记 (Journey To The West):

诗曰:混沌未分天地乱,茫茫渺渺无人见。自从盘古破鸿蒙,开辟从兹清浊辨。覆载群生仰至仁,发明万物皆成善。欲知造化会元功,须看西游释厄传。

The gap after punctuation is part of the punctuation character.

It's interesting because it's a more efficient syntax. In English, why should you type a space after comma? It's redundant. The comma character itself serves the purpose of pause, and the space or gap serves no semantic purpose, but presentation. The comma character should contain a trailing gap itself, or, the rendering system should automatically render a gap after it. Same with exclamation, question mark, period, although the period is abused for many purposes.

You could write a program to convert English punctuation to the equivalent Chinese version,and rid of extra space。For example,this very sentence you are reading,is using Chinese punctuation and there's no space character after comma or period。The problem with this is that it goes against convention,and you'll encounter many little problems。For example,search engine might get confused。

Here's a emacs command that lets you convert. Emacs Lisp: Convert Punctuation Between English/Chinese Forms

Similarly, in programing language, often you have style guides on whether to add a space. For example: x=3+4 vs x = 3 + 4, {7,9,10} vs {7, 9, 10}. Software should automatically render the space.

See also:

Tiny Space Bar on Japanese Keyboards

Tiny Space Bar on Japanese Keyboards

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