Re: "book end" or <enclosing characters> in most languages?

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Thu May 29 2003 - 18:11:30 EDT

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    From: "Ben Dougall" <>
    > On Thursday, May 29, 2003, at 02:10 pm, Philippe Verdy wrote:
    > > Interestingly, the French first-level quotation marks use what we call
    > > "chevrons" (double angle brackets).
    > >
    > > However there are some typographical considerations that common fonts
    > > forget when they design these characters:
    > >
    > > They are normally as tall as lowercase letters, the angle brackets
    > > should not be acute, but still kerned (and not displayed as two
    > > separate angle brackets), and their bottom base should be aligned with
    > > the baseline of the Latin script.
    > are they something that's in unicode? apart from the less than and
    > greater than < > symbols i can't see anything like that.

    Code positions 0xAB and 0xBB (in ISO-8859-1) are canonically equivalent to Unicode U+00AB («) and U+00BB (») code points. The normal usage of these "chevrons" glyphs is for quotation marks that we call "guillemets" in French. I think that their english name is "double angle quotation marks".

    They are very different from < and > mathematical symbols, notably by their glyph height (quotation marks use smaller glyphs).
    In French, like all other punctuations that have more then one stroke, they are surrounded on both side a space (the inner space is not breakable and not justifiable and normally very narrow, but you'll often find NBSP used for these spaces in texts initially encoded with ISO-8859-1, because NBSP is not breakable even though it is often too large).

    Look at this: « Good example of French quotations marks. »
    Which is definitely not: << Example of bad quotations marks. >> (incorrect characters)
    And not even: «Bad example of French quotations marks.» (incorrect spacing)

    Note that the double quotation marks cannot be emulated by a pair of single quotation marks U+2039 and U+203A, because these characters are not kerned: Compare:
    « Good example of French quotations marks. » and
    << Bad example of French quotations marks. >> and

    Note also that Ideographic characters U+300A and U+300B are not equivalent: these double angle brackets include a *outer* half space within a square box layout, instead of a inner half space for French quotations, and these characters are too high as they are designed to be used around Han ideographs or Hiragana/Katakana and Hangul characters or grapheme clusters.

    > > French usage of these quotation marks is interesting: when a quotation
    > > spans several paragraphs, each paragraph starts with a quotation mark,
    > > but only the last one is terminated by the mirrored mark.
    > so it can go open, open, open, close for example. and the last close
    > covers all the previous opens. i see from another mail that also occurs
    > in english. didn't know that.

    You guessed it correctly. I think this convention is widely used in many fictious texts, notably when the narrator is quoting long speeches from a related person. But in French, we use it more universally, and such convention is also used in technical and legal publications, such as court transcripts, police reports, where the double angle quotation mark is used quite universally using the same rules.

    But for short unattributed quotations such as popular expressions the angle quotation marks used in the middle of a sentence from the same author is generally marked by smaller comma-style quotation marks like " this " with non-breakable thin inner spaces required by the strict French typography, but very often removed because NBSP is too large, and U+2005 (the quarter of cadratin space) is better.

    Note that NBSP is normally not justifiable for inter-word spacing, but it happens sometimes for inter-letter spacing.
    The exact spacing of NBSP is normally the same as U+2000 Half of cadratin space (but on which inter-letter spacing is prohibited). Strict French typography normally does not use U+2000, U+2002 or NBSP which are too large, neither U+2003 which is twice larger and normally used after around a long dash punctuation, but a thinner U+2005 which is half the width of an unjustified SPACE, NSSP, U+2000 or U+2002.

    Example: we use U+2005 before a semi-colon, before a colon, before a question mark, before an exclamation mark, after a opening double quotation mark, before a closing double quotation mark. We don't use it with a full dot, a comma, parentheses, single angle brackets, square brackets and braces, or with single quotation marks.

    Normally the space that follows a full dot for the next sentence should be at least a full cadratin, but as it is justifiable, most French text (and typewriter styles) use a single standard SPACE (English traditionally uses two SPACES in this case).

    In French, the quotation marks must surround any ending punctuation « like this. » Note that you may see here a square box instead of the thin unbreakable and unjustifiable space U+2005 quarter of quadratin. Publishers know this character and use it correctly. Most French text on the web just use NBSP even though it is too large.

    > thanks for the info. whenever i try and find out about this sort of
    > thing one thing always becomes very apparent. there's no blanket rules
    > that apply. at least not obvious, immediate ones.


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