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Sometimes students using LaTeX ask me how to do the typesetting of documents in 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, ...)?

For example:

  • abbreviations are written in German with \, (z.\,B. = e.g.), in English without any space,
  • a dash in English is --- without spaces before and after the character, in German ~-- (with spaces),
  • the quotation marks are different (“Foo” vs. „Bar“ vs. « Baz »; package csquote),
  • vertical, horizontal and double rules in tables (package booktabs),
  • in German the ampersand & is only allowed in company names (Paul & Söhne), in English ?
  • there are different style formatting footnotes in German (e.g. normal number, hanging, footnote text left justified or right left justified). Other languages?
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Thanks for those who answered this question. All of them have been given a plus one for their good answers. I think it's better to simply not accept any of the answers (to be fair to all). – Kurt Aug 3 '12 at 16:53
@Kurt Community-Wiki questions are exactly questions that have (1) many good answers with (2) none of them being "more helpful than the other". This is a typical example of a question that can be marked CW, because as you say, "it's better to simply not accept any of the answers (to be fair to all)", since you expect people to provide many "equal" answers. – yo' Aug 20 '12 at 6:59
Today I was asked for informations to french typographie. And the answer of @Thérèse was very usefull for the student. So I decided to accept this on. – Kurt Sep 14 '12 at 14:50

8 Answers 8

up vote 11 down vote accepted

In French, try, which includes a section comparing English typography. For more on French typography, see Also check the collections of links at and, of course, the many treasures at

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There is also the Lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l'Imprimerie Nationale, which is the official reference for French language, and Lacroux's excellent book. – ienissei Jul 24 '12 at 20:02
Excellent resources, thank you. – Dimitris Aug 1 '12 at 15:04
Today I was asked for informations to french typographie. And your was very usefull for the student. So I decided to accept this on as the most usefull answer for me. That does not mean, that the other answers are not worth to be accepted (I can only accept one). – Kurt Sep 14 '12 at 14:53

For Russian typographical traditions there is a short article by V. Zaitsev et al. "Russian Typographical Traditions in Mathematical Literature". It is not a comprehensible guide, still it highlights a number of differences.

It is available from

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If you are using biblatex with biber as back-end for citations, csquotes for quotations, and babel for language support, you are half way to your goal. :-)

If you are typesetting units, siunitx will help you to the correct notation (see also the web page of Bureau International des Poids et Messures). However, the SI-notation is not always ‘correct’ typography.

For the details regarding specific language, I suggest that you ask questions, for example on

Inspired by Kurt, I can give some references to Norwegian typography, but since the articles are in Norwegian, I assume it will be to a limited audience. For general typography see for example the web pages and Typografi i Norge. Very interesting is the link to fourteen (14) articles by the Norwegian typographer Sven Erik Skarsbø. The articles are in full text (.PDF-files in Norwegian), and answer most of your questions regarding Norwegian language and Norwegian typography.

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I use all of them ;-) I want to go a little bit deeper ... For example is the german dokument a good example. – Kurt Jul 24 '12 at 18:20
@Sveinung: Do you know a Norwegian book about typographie like "Detaitypografie" or "Lesetypografie" in German? I'm writing a bib file with the typografie books and urls. – Kurt Aug 6 '12 at 23:59
@Sveinung I would call them the German typographic bible. They are a reference book for all questions about font and type setting. The ISBN are 978-3874396424 and 978-3874398008. – Kurt Aug 7 '12 at 13:54
@Kurt This book is one they are using at the education institute for typographers and graphic designers: @book{rannem_bokstav_1988, address = {Oslo}, title = {Bokstav, bilde, budskap : lærebok i typografi}, isbn = {978-82-00-35138-2}, publisher = {Universitetsforl.}, author = {Rannem, Øyvin}, year = {1988}, keywords = {} } – Sveinung Aug 8 '12 at 7:54

The reference for French is the Lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l'Imprimerie National. frenchb (French babel) implements quite a few of these rules, and the impnattypo package provides more of them.

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Good hint with the package impnattypo. It seems that e-french follows frenchb. – Kurt Jul 31 '12 at 20:49
What do you mean by "follows"? – ℝaphink Aug 1 '12 at 8:32
I mean e-french seems to be the successor of frenchb. – Kurt Aug 1 '12 at 17:17
No it isn't. They've existed side-by-side for years, and e-french was (to my knowledge) a paid package (sic). I keep using frenchb since I have yet to this day to get a propre explanation of why I should switch to e-french... – ℝaphink Aug 1 '12 at 17:42

There is also an excellent reference for Tex in Spanish, discussing typographic traditions and lots of related items. by Javier Bezos, who is also the author of several popular LaTeX packages.

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For french, the definite guide is the recently published Orthotypographie. There is also the guide that is used by the Imprimérie nationale.

However, none of these guides contain concrete LaTeX suggestions. I presume that most of the typographic elements that are used in LaTeX standard packages have been transcribed by the Babel or similar packages.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no comparative guide across various languages.

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Interesting, the word "Orthotypografie" is also known in German. – Kurt Jul 31 '12 at 20:59

In Germay we have many rules which are written down in a standard called DIN (deutsche Industrie Norm - german industry standard ). Those rules are typographic rules in some way while not necessarily developed by typographers.

There is a standard about citations: DIN 1505-2 Wikipedia (german)

It says basically : Name1, Prename1[ ; Name2, Prename2 ; ...]: Title : Subtitle. [Volume ]Place: Publisher, Year.[ - ISBN #####][ p. #-#]

Another rule defines Symbols: DIN 1302 Wikipedia (german) or formular symbols (this is compatible to SI) DIN 1338 . I could link many more cause we have standards for every situation ;)

The international equivalent is ISO 80000 which defines also typographic rules for typesetting units etc.

Another good source for information about unit typesetting is btw the siunitx documentation.

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Good hint with package siunitx; The german DIN is usefill for german or german speaking people. Do you know a simular Document for Frensh, Spanish, ... ? – Kurt Jul 24 '12 at 18:45

The German Wikipedia article on quotation marks provides a great table comparing styles from many countries. It's just a partial solution, but it might be a start.

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