The SE engine removes spaces before question marks in question titles. A title such as “Différence entre ‘patte’ et ‘pâte’ ?” gets rewritten without the space before “?”, no matter what I try to do.

This enforces the rules of English typography w.r.t. spaces and punctuation, which is quite different from the French rules. As such, all French questions on FL&U get this weird feeling (and trying to correct it will be silently ignored, i.e. the edit is accepted, but the change is ignored). This happens whether the space is breakable or unbreakable.

I see three things to be fixed:

  • short term: stop doing that for unbreakable spaces. If I decided to put an unbreakable space, I know what I'm doing. Stop changing that behind my back.
  • short term: do not accept and silently ignore such edits
  • longer term: disable that completely for FL&U and other sites that request it. Possibly, even implement a French-specific thing so that “space + question mark” gets converted into “unbreakable space + question mark” (that would be super extra great, but we can live without it)

Some references on French typography: 1, 2, 3, 4, including a summary post on French Language & Usage itself!

  • 27
    I love the feature of removing the spaces, but I can see how the exact same feature can be annoying as hell when applied to languages with different rules. Pretty much for the same reason I hate " ?" in English language text. Aug 25, 2011 at 9:37
  • By the way: is only replacing breakable spaces really a sufficient workaround for this? That might work on SO and possibly SU, but I wouldn't think that it's a useful solution for any non-techy focused SE sites. Aug 25, 2011 at 11:02
  • 9
    @Joachim: it's not ideal, but it offers the huge advantage that it doesn't need to be specific to FL&U. It should not hurt anyone on other sites as people don't usually use the unbreakable space, and if they do, as F'x says, then they probably mean it. As for the FL&U, we have the opposite problem that people won't know to use the unbreakable space, but at least the team of editors (and believe me it's like editopolis over there) can fix the question in the interim. So yes, as a short-term measure, it would help. And it wouldn't hurt anyway.
    – Joubarc
    Aug 25, 2011 at 12:19
  • 1
    I'd say your chances of getting this done would be improved by providing a source for the French rules of typography.
    – AakashM
    Aug 25, 2011 at 12:46
  • 7
    The standpoint of its necessity of allowing this on the French site makes sense.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Aug 25, 2011 at 13:10
  • 2
    @AakashM: Visit any page on the French wikipedia and look out for question marks. You'll always see a space in front. Aug 25, 2011 at 13:36
  • 3
    I found this source among others: revues.refer.org/telechargement/fiche-typographie.pdf The best reference would be the "Lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l'Imprimerie nationale" however it's not available online.
    – laurent
    Aug 25, 2011 at 13:38
  • 3
    I should probably not have laughed out loud, bitterly, at this.
    – Shog9
    Aug 25, 2011 at 14:15
  • FX, you didn't include this as a reference. Shame on you!
    – Benjol
    Aug 26, 2011 at 6:45
  • @FX : C'est « A title », pas « an title ». :) Aug 30, 2011 at 5:04
  • Does this affect uses of the ternary ?: operator, as in x ? y : z, or does it apply only at the end of the title? Jun 9, 2012 at 18:07

2 Answers 2


This is a setting that will be disabled for https://french.stackexchange.com/ after the next build.

  • what about other sites?
    – Ashu
    May 12, 2012 at 14:01
  • 7
    @Ashu which other sites would need this feature specific to the french language?
    – Pekka
    Jun 9, 2012 at 21:50

Simply disabling that autocorrection for the French SE should solve the problem.

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