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?
  • Your comment about the em dash in English isn't wholly correct. I think OUP insists on em-dash (i.e. ---) but other sources allow or recommend the en dash (i.e. ` -- ` ). I don't have Bringhurst to hand, but I think he's ok with en dashes.
    – Seamus
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 15:02

10 Answers 10


In French, try www.guide-typographie.com, which includes a section comparing English typography. For more on French typography, see www.synapse-fr.com/typographie/TTM_0.htm. Also check the collections of links at tex.loria.fr/english/typographie.html and, of course, the many treasures at jacques-andre.fr.

  • 5
    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
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 20:02

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 tex.sx.

I can give some references to Norwegian typography, but since the articles and web pages are in Norwegian, I assume they will be of use for only a limited audience. For general typography, see for example the web pages Typografi.no 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.

The text book used at typographical schools in Norway, Øyvin Rannem: Bokstav, bilde, budskap : lærebok i typografi, is available online free for non-commercial use at the University Library, provided you have a Norwegian IP address.

This book is one they are using at the education institute for typographers and graphic designers:

  address = {Oslo}, 
  title = {Bokstav, bilde, budskap : lærebok i typografi}, 
  isbn = {978-82-00-35138-2}, 
  publisher = {Universitetsforl.}, 
  author = {Rannem, Øyvin}, 
  year = {1988}, 
  keywords = {} 

In Germany 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.

  • 2
    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, ... ?
    – Mensch
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 18:45
  • 1
    we have many rules which are written down in a standard called DIN. That is soo German. Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 11:35

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.

  • 2
    or for the English-speaking people, a similar table can be found in the English Wikipedia! Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 10:50

There is also an excellent reference for Tex in Spanish, discussing typographic traditions and lots of related items. http://www.tex-tipografia.com by Javier Bezos, who is also the author of several popular LaTeX packages.


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

  • What do you mean by "follows"?
    – raphink
    Commented Aug 1, 2012 at 8:32
  • 1
    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
    Commented Aug 1, 2012 at 17:42

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


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

It is available from http://www.uni-giessen.de/partosch/eurotex99/zaitsev.pdf.


For an introduction (in German) to the use of Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters as well as the Japanese and Korean syllable-based writing systems, I recommend:

Zippel, Susanne: Fachchinesisch Typografie (ISBN 978-3-87439-818-3).

Its focus lies on Chinese, and it includes a comparison to German typography as well as a multilingual glossary of typographic terminology (Chinese, German), and an illustrated explanation of the structure of CJK characters and the two syllabic Japanese writing systems. The book also offers advice on when to use which character style (mingti 明体 / heiti 黑体 / kaishu 楷书).


For Italian, the reference about typographic traditions and their use in LaTeX is the paper "Norme tipografiche per l'italiano in LaTeX" by Gustavo Cevolani, published in the first issue of ArsTeXnica.

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