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?
  • I think there are some excellent topics wrapped up in this post. Altogether I think it's a little too broad to result in an answer. Something like What are the rules surrounding the & in English typesetting? would be a better fit. Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 1:56
  • 1
    I would argue that ampersand usage has nothing at all to do with typography. The em dash is large and with no space for American English, but for English English my understanding is that it is more an en dash size with space to either side.
    – horatio
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 15:52
  • @horatio I think both styles of dash are accepted on both sides of the Atlantic, although the em dash without space is probably more common these days. Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 16:10

6 Answers 6


"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.

  • 3
    What about chinese, arabic, urdu, persian, korean, japanese, and other african languages.
    – user8795
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 4:44

For German and English typesetting, there is 'Zweisprachige Mikrotypografie' by Amelie Solbrig available for free. It's an introduction to typesetting and a compilation of German and English typesetting rules. It also comprises interviews with industry practitioners. For a student, it beats the shamelessly overpriced 'Detailtypografie' by Forssman & de Jong (currently €98 / US$130) …

Solbrig, Amelie (2008). Zweisprachige Mikrotypografie – ein Regelwerk für den deutsch/englischen Schriftsatz. Diplomarbeit im Studiengang Verlagsherstellung. Leipzig, Germany: Leipzig University of Applied Sciences (HTWK Leipzig). Download page: http://bmb.htwk-leipzig.de/de/branche/diplomarbeiten/gestaltungtypografie/zweisprachige-mikrotypografie/


Some of the more general rules used in French:

  • Hyphenate words that have 6 letters or more only, leave 3 letters before and 3 letters after the hyphen minimum.
  • French quotes are « », for quotes inside quotes, use the single English quotes
  • Thin spaces (1/8em) before ? ! ; and inside french quotes « »
  • There is always a space before % $ : but some do the full non-breaking space and some do the thin space.

If you have any more specific questions about rules in French, feel free to comment and I'll add to this post.

In French, I use one of these two:

  • thank you for the French rules. I will need to write a question about who French typesetters apply those in real live. Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 16:59
  • @MartinZaske I do and I teach my students to use them as well!
    – curious
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 17:03
  • If you know how to apply these rules in a real production work-flow, please answer my question: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/87195/… Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 17:16

For French typography, the best books I can recommend are Histoire de l'écriture typographique and Règles de l'écriture Typographique du Français by Yves Perrousseaux. I tried to look for an English version but didn't find any.

So, if you don't find an english version of theses, you can still have a look at this framasoft page. Of course it's not as comprehensive as a book. I checked a bit and it looks like google can translate it quite fine. I mean... you'll get the key stuff ;)

I hope this helps. And if you have any specific question regarding French typography, keep in mind that you can still ask here :)


For Italian typography, the best book I can recommend is Regole editoriali, tipografiche & redazionali by Fabrizio Serra. One could find it on Amazon.it, or other main Italian bookstores.


Excellent resource for Vietnamese (in English): https://vietnamesetypography.com/

  • While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review
    – Lucian
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 21:08
  • @Lucian The essential part of the answer is the link. The question specifically asked for external references. Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 3:07

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