Keyboards, most software and basic input forms found on the web are usually too simple to cope with standard French typography conventions. However, I'd like to suggest a simple improvement that (I think) cannot do any harm, and would help post formatting a bit, by avoiding hanging punctuation.

Spaces appear before and after several punctuation signs in French. Conventions may vary with countries, but very often when there is such a space it should not be just a simple space but an unbreakable space¹.

Compare what your mobile phone may display:

La mise en forme de ce texte n'est pas «
convenable », il devient difficile de le lire
! ne pensez-vous pas ?

with what you would obtain using no-break spaces appropriately:

La mise en forme de ce texte est plus
« habituelle », et il est plus facile de le
lire ! N'est-ce pas ?

I usually don't like automatic rewriting, but I think we could safely enforce a few very simple characters rewriting patterns on this site, turning normal spaces into unbreakable spaces where needed. At least in the following cases:

(I use . to denote any non-space character, and _ is a placeholder for the no-break space.)

  • . :._:
  • . ;._;
  • . !._!
  • . ?._?
  • « .«_.
  • . »._»

It may work just like the quote rewriting ".“. and .".” that is performed on titles. And code blocks should better be excluded from such a rewrite (hardly any code block can be found on the site currently, but anyway…).

Like others, I'm pretty tired of fixing the dangling symbols in titles, especially because I know that it would take roughly 15 minutes of work to deal with this once and for all, for everyone. When I fix titles with my phone, I don't even bother, and quite often someone has to come after me.

So I kindly ask the SE team to implement such a change, or to let us implement it.


1. Some should in fact be turned into narrow no-break spaces (U+202F), but I'm giving up with these since some broken browsers still fail to render them properly.

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This is a follow-up for meta.french.stackexchange.com/questions/39/… –  Stéphane Gimenez Jun 29 '12 at 12:05
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You shouldn't give up on narrow-no breaks. Most of the recent browsers have no problems with them, and slipping the problem under the rug is not very serviceable, neither for the users nor for the developers. –  Evpok Jun 30 '12 at 13:19
    
I agree with @Evpok, and I'm one whose browser is misbehaving (big space). –  Un francophone Jul 3 '12 at 11:40
    
I can't upvote again :-( –  Un francophone Jul 5 '13 at 6:34
    
I've added a client-side implementation of these rewrite rules, as suggested above, into version 1.16 of the Stack Overflow Unofficial Patch user script. It uses narrow no-break spaces, although, honestly, I can't really see much visual difference between them and normal no-break spaces. Let me know if you find any problems with it. –  Ilmari Karonen Jun 26 at 15:32
    
@IlmariKaronen: Fantastic! I just tried and it works for me™. I will report any problem if I find one. Thanks! –  Stéphane Gimenez Jun 27 at 18:12

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