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Será esta uma pergunta simples?
Será esta uma pergunta simples ?

Should there be a space (as in French typography) or no space (as in English typography) before punctuation marks? (E.g. before a question mark ?, colon :, semicolon ;, closing quotation marks «.)

I see both used frequently.

  • Portuguese for a while did add a slim space before certain punctuation as I've seen it in a number of books published in the 1850s to 1920s ish period (like the question mark and exclamation) but it's not standard anymore. – guifa Dec 6 '15 at 18:23
  • @guifa Oh, great. If you have a picture of such a book, posting it as an answer would be a great addition to the existing answers. – Earthliŋ Dec 6 '15 at 18:38
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English:

We don't add spaces before punctuation in Portuguese, so it should be:

Será esta uma pergunta simples?

We do add them after most punctuation, like this:

Será esta uma pergunta simples? Não.

By the way, since you mentioned quotes, it's worth saying that in (brazilian, afaik) Portuguese we also use the same quotation marks as English: either straight quotes " and ' or curly open and close quotes, unlike French's Guillmet « ».


Português:

Não se adiciona espaços antes de pontuação em português, logo o correto é

Será esta uma pergunta simples?

Mas o espaço deve ser adicionado após as pontuações. Por exemplo:

Será esta uma pergunta simples? Não.

Por sinal, já que falou-se em aspas, é válido dizer que em português, no Brasil, utilizamos as mesmas aspas do inglês: tanto aspas neutras " e ' quanto curvas de abertura e fechamento , diferentemente do Guillmet utilizado em francês: « ».

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    Is this answer valid for both Portugal and Brazil? – Earthliŋ Jul 15 '15 at 0:13
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    @Earthliŋ I confirm this to be the rule of thumb in European Portuguese, but it should go just the same for Brazillian Portuguese. – E_net4 Jul 15 '15 at 0:19
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    This is valid for brazilian portuguese too. – LINQ Jul 15 '15 at 0:30
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    I was under the impression that « » was still used in European Portuguese. So is Wikipedia. Has this changed recently? Should this be asked as a new question? – Dan Getz Jul 15 '15 at 23:53
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    European Portuguese does indeed tend to use « » (helped, perhaps, by the fact that there is a «/» key on its standard keyboard, whereas the Brazilian keyboard only has the '/" key. – guifa Dec 7 '15 at 2:33
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No space before, mandatory space after (if it is not the end of the text). Using space before punctuation is just wrong in Portuguese. This applies for all the cases that you cited: question marks, colons, semicolons and closing quotation marks. Further, it also applies to exclamation marks, periods and closing parenthesis and brackets.

The only exception is that closing parenthesis, brackets and quotation marks immediately followed by another punctuation are not not immediately following spaces, they should be immediately followed by another punctuation.

For opening parenthesis, brackets and quotation marks, there should be no space after them and the space before is mandatory.

So those are correctly punctuated:

Será que esta é uma pergunta simples? Acredito que sim! Pois bem, aqui vamos seguir [mais um] exemplo de um texto (em língua portuguesa, é claro): Tem gente que diz que a língua portuguesa é "simples", mas de fato, "simples" ela não é!

Those are not correctly punctuated:

Será que esta é uma pergunta simples ? Acredito que sim !Pois bem,aqui vamos seguir [ mais um ]exemplo de um texto( em língua portuguesa , é claro ) : Tem gente que diz que a língua portuguesa é " simples" , mas de fato ,"simples "ela não é !

However you are likely to see some very poorly-punctuated text in the internet. The reason is because many people are very lazy and careless when writing in Portuguese. You will also note that very poorly-punctuated texts also frequently features a lot of grotesque grammatical and spelling errors and is poorly-structured, because they are generally written carelessly or in hurry.

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    Alright, I didn't think [that the second ) text you.wrote would" have been " correct,, ever. I was asking, because French does ask questions with an extra space before question marks. =) – Earthliŋ Jul 15 '15 at 0:25
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The style of punctuation has changed throughout time. Originally, it was quite random, but basically punctuation was generally defined as having a space on either side, but for spacing reasons, could always lose it if necessary on either side.

Things eventually standardized a bit and so we get to the 18th century with this scan from the 1717 edition of A fenix renascida:

enter image description here

Notice how all punctuation gets a full space (or more!) around them, including colons and commas but not the period. Even the parentheses got them:

enter image description here

But then later, things changed. Here is a picture from the XXX edition of Machado de Assis's (scan from p. 42, "Uns braços")

Scan of text showing space around punctuation in older Portuguese printed texts

As you can see, while there is not a full space preceding the question mark and the exclamation mark, there is a thin space that is used. On the other hand, there is not any additional space (in comparison to modern usage) around the semicolon or colon. Looking through books, I can find the extra space in front of semicolons, exclamation marks, question marks, and close-quotations (and after open-quotations) up to 1920s without any problem. (after that, Google Books can't let me search them as easily due to copyright restrictions).

Nowadays, though, it's pretty clear you likely won't ever see extra space on either side of punctuation marks unless a publisher is intentionally trying to follow a French (or similar) style.

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    What I find really interesting is how in your first scan, the tildes are placed on the second vowel in what is now written with it on the first, so they wrote naõ, ſaõ, aceytaçaõ, diſcriçaõ, protecçaõ rather than não, são, aceitação, discrição, protecção. Plus we still see the old scribal abbreviation of using the tilde as an abbreviation to stand in for an actual n in buſcãdo for buscando the way they would often do during the early years of movable type to mimic old scribal traditions (and to save space as needed for setting the type). – tchrist Dec 7 '15 at 3:19
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    @tchrist Indeed, there was a orthographic change that decided to move the tilde on the diphthongs such that Camões was originally Camoẽs. In reality, for a good while the final /m/ would have still been pronounced (while still nasalizing), so that would make sense for it to be on the second vowel, but I'm not sure at which point the consonant was finally muted and exactly which reform shifted the position (in modern Portuguese, it's not super important which letter gets it because both vowels in the diphthong are nasalized) – guifa Dec 7 '15 at 3:53

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