Space (punctuation)

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In writing, a space ( ) is a blank area devoid of content, serving to separate words, letters, numbers, and punctuation. Conventions for interword and intersentence spaces vary among languages, and in some cases the spacing rules are quite complex.

In the classical period, Latin was written with interpuncts (centred dots) as word separators, but that practice was abandoned sometime around the year 200 CE in favour of scriptio continua, i.e., with the words running together without any word separators. In around 600–800 CE, blank spaces started being inserted between words in Latin, and that practice carried over to all languages using the Latin alphabet (e.g. English). In typesetting, spaces have historically been of multiple lengths with particular space-lengths being used for specific typographic purposes, such as separating words or separating sentences or separating punctuation from words. Following the invention of the typewriter and the subsequent overlap of designer style-preferences and computer-technology limitations, much of this reader-centric variation has been lost in normal use.

In computer representation of text, spaces of various sizes, styles, or language characteristics (different space characters) are indicated with unique code points.


Use of the space in natural languages

Spaces between words

Modern English uses a space to separate words, but not all languages follow this practice. Spaces were not used to separate words in Latin until roughly 600 CE–800 CE. Ancient Hebrew and Arabic did use spaces, partly to compensate in clarity for the lack of vowels. Traditionally, all CJK languages have no spaces: modern Chinese and Japanese (except when written with little or no kanji) still do not, but modern Korean uses spaces.

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