# typesetting spaces in initials in German texts

Assuming you are preparing a German text (say, to be published with Springer), what would be a "standard" way to typeset spaces in a name, say, Edsger Wybe Dijkstra, in which the initials are abbreviated:

1. `E.W.\@ Dijkstra` (or `E.W. Dijkstra`)

2. `E.\@ W.\@ Dijkstra` (or `E. W. Dijkstra`)

3. `E.\,W.\@ Dijkstra` (or `E.\,W. Dijkstra`)

4. `E.\kern.02em W.\@ Dijkstra` (or `E.\kern.02em W. Dijkstra`)

In case 4., what would be the "correct" kerning amount?

• why not the simplest `E. W. Dijkstra` ? (or `E.~W.~Dijkstra` if you are in a context that could linebreak) – David Carlisle Sep 26 '18 at 16:28
• @StevenB.Segletes isn't that the same as 3? – David Carlisle Sep 26 '18 at 16:32
• Personally, I would opt for 3 (I use that in some of my German texts). – TeXnician Sep 26 '18 at 16:33
• well, the `\@` are not doing anything so just using a space is simpler than using `\@` in all four case. I would not use 4 as the numerical value is font-dependent. so `E. W. Dijkstra` or `E.\,W. Dijkstra` – David Carlisle Sep 26 '18 at 16:33
• yes, If you need to end a sentence with a capital then `X\@. ` will do that. – David Carlisle Sep 26 '18 at 16:37

The book “Detailtypografie” by Forssmann and de Jong recommends the following

Innerhalb von Abkürzungs-Gebilden und von Daten steht ein Flexibles Leerzeichen » «.

Am Ende der Abkürzung und nach dem Datum steht ein Wortzwischenraum » «.

Translation (mine):

Within abbreviation compounds and dates a flexible space » « is placed.

At the end of an abbreviation or after a date an interword space » « is placed.

If I were to translate this to LaTeX, that would be

``````E.\,W.\ Dijkstra
``````

or, using the convention that TeX does not treat a period after a capital as full stop, we may omit the explicit space `\␣`

``````E.\,W. Dijkstra
``````

It is not entirely correct because the `\,` thin space is a `\kern.16667em` whereas the “flexible space”, as Forssmann and de Jong call it, is supposed to be `\kern.25em` (4/M space, de: Viertelgeviert, U+2005).

Initials should not be separated which is why the `\,` in `E.\,W.` is a `\kern` which is unbreakable. If, however, a situation arises where this leads to a problematic line break, they may be split, i.e. the `\kern` can be replaced by `\hskip`.