Writing in Chinese – Setting Down the Rules for Spacing

2011 June 15
by Alena


Today I want to make clear how to use a space character when you type a text in Chinese. It seems to be very simple since there is no space between Chinese characters. It is true but very often some texts in Chinese can include English words. In this case there are certain rules that should be followed. They were originally based on recommendations from Microsoft in order to maximize the ability of search engines to index Chinese content as well as Chinese content that contained or is intermingled with text in English. Search engines in the past were not capable of separating out an English word next to a string of Chinese characters, if there was no space between them. Today the search engines easily make the distinction; however, the suggested rules remain in place more for aesthetic reasons than any other.

Spacing between Chinese characters and English words

There is always a space between English words and Chinese words.

Example: About John Jameson

错 (Wrong):关于John Jameson
对 (Right):关于 John Jameson

However if the English word is preceded or followed by Chinese punctuation, there is no space between the English word and the Chinese punctuation (in the example below, there is no space between “,” and the word “Microsoft”:

Example: 这些信息可帮助确定潜在的问题,Microsoft 需要在将来的 Internet Explorer Service Pack 中解决这些问题。

There is no space between Arabic numbers and Chinese characters:

Example: 11/18/2003

错 (W):2003 年 11 月 18 日
对 (R):2003年11月18日

But if the Arabic numbers include text, an abbreviation or a unit measurement in English, then there should be a space between the numerical expression and the Chinese text:

错 (W):就像我们为福特公司和2004 SVT Mustang Cobra车提供的变色皮革内饰。

对 (R):就像我们为福特公司和 2004 SVT Mustang Cobra 车提供的变色皮革内饰。

If the English word is an acronym and is combined with Chinese characters to form common expressions frequently used in Chinese, for example, IT部门 or IT行业, it is more common and acceptable to not place a space between the Chinese and the English, although both would be considered acceptable.

Example: With 10 years of localization experience in the IT industry,
对 (R):凭着在IT行业中10年的本地化经验,
对 (R):凭着在 IT 行业中10年的本地化经验,

English single-byte and Chinese double-byte parentheses

If Chinese words are placed in parentheses, use double-byte parentheses with no spaces between the words and the parentheses, even if there is an English word before or after the parentheses.
Example: Acme translates text in the display panels of fax machines and diverse EPROMs.
对 (R):Acme 翻译传真机和其它多种 EPROM(电子可编程只读存储器)显示面板上的文本。

If English words are placed in parentheses, use single-byte parentheses, with a space before the opening parenthesis and after the closing parenthesis. There should be no spaces between the words inside the parentheses and the parentheses themselves.

Example: IT translation services
错 (W):信息技术(IT)翻译服务
对 (R):信息技术 (IT) 翻译服务

But if the opening parenthesis is preceded by or the closing parenthesis is followed by Chinese punctuation, then there is no space before the opening or after the closing parenthesis. In the example below, there is a space before (P3P), but no space after (P3P).

Example: 这些工具支持用于隐私首选项的平台 (P3P),即 World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) 正在制定的一个标准。

Here is an example of using double-byte and single-byte parentheses in the same sentence. Note that there is a space between 别 and 1, and between 1 and (CSS1), while there is no space between the two sets of parentheses. Note that (CSS1) are single-byte parentheses, while (包括内嵌元素目前所支持的边框、填充、边距) are double-byte:

对 (R):提供对层叠样式表级别 1 (CSS1)(包括内嵌元素目前所支持的边框、填充、边距)的完全支持。

Single-byte and double-byte quotation marks

If English words appear in quotation marks, use single byte quotation marks with a space between the quotation marks and the surrounding Chinese words.

Example: “minInclusive” and “minExclusive” cannot both appear in a type definition.
错 (Wrong):在型别定义中”minInclusive”和”minExclusive”不能同时出现。
对 (Right):在型别定义中 “minInclusive” 和 “minExclusive” 不能同时出现。

However, if Chinese words are within the quotation marks, make sure to use double-byte quotation marks, with no spaces between the quotation marks and the words:

对 (R):将出现“我的图片”工具栏,可以让您立刻使用“我的图片”功能。

Single-byte and double-byte slash

Only use the single byte slash in all situations (for Chinese as well as for English):

错 (W):/
对 (R):/

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