Revision:French typography and punctuation

Uppercase letters are used much more often in English than in French.

(For your information: uppercase letters are lettres majuscules or lettres capitales, lowercase letters are lettres minuscules but are sometimes referred to as bas-de-casse.)

For instance, organisms, titles, historical events, toponyms, titles, …:

the Treaty of Versailles = le traité de Versailles

the Panama Canal = le canal de Panama

the Second World War = la deuxième guerre mondiale

the Queen of England = la reine d'Angleterre

The Grapes of Wrath = Les raisins de la colère (this is a work, so it always has the first letter of the first word in capital, but not the other words)

School of Humanities = faculté de lettres

This is a bit different for nationalities. They are still uppercase when referring to a person or a country, but lowercase as adjectives.

Spain = l'Espagne

an Italian wine = un vin italien

an Italian = un Italien

the British Empire = l'empire britannique

the Queen of England = la reine d'Angleterre

the English Queen = la reine anglaise

the British Prime Minister = le premier ministre britannique

Britain's Prime Minister = le premier ministre de la Grande-Bretagne

Months and days are also lowercase (septembre, janvier ; lundi, mardi, mercredi).

Basically, use uppercase letters for beginning of sentences, proper nouns (but only on the first word), countries or inhabitants of a country. There are exceptions, of course, but these are very precise and most of native French speakers don't even know them. You can find all of the rules [[1]].


As a simple rule : do the same as in English, but put a space before double signs (: ; ? !). Example:

Yes? No! So, then: that is so; it can't be discussed.

Oui ? Non ! Voyez donc : c'est ainsi ; ça ne se discute pas.


M. = Monsieur (you'll often see Mr. but this is a mistake)

Mme = Madame

Mlle = Mademoiselle

MM. = Messieurs (plural)

Mmes = Mesdames (plural)

p. ex. = par exemple (this must be used instead of e. g.)

c.-à.-d. = c'est-à-dire (this must be used instead of i. e., though it should be rarely used in the abbreviated form)

1er = 1st

2e = 2nd

3e, 4e, 5e, 12e… = 3th, 4th… (again, you may see other forms such as 3ème, 4ième but these are not the right abbreviations)


Decimal numbers are written with a comma, not a full stop.

∏ est égal à environ 3,14

Large number aren't separated with a comma, but with a space — unless there are only 4 digits, where you can choose to not use a separator at all.

La Grande-Bretagne compte 58 000 000 habitants. (There are 58,000,000 inhabitants in Britain)

J'avais 2430,12 euros d'économies sur mon compte bancaire (I had 2,430.12 euros of savings on my bank account)(well, I wish I had…)

Hours and dates are written as follows:

La réunion se tiendra à 18h30 et finira à 20h. (The meeting will be held at 6.30 PM and will end at 8 o'clock.) Je suis né le 26 septembre 1992