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Using special characters in translation projects

Do you wish to avoid post-formatting work and corrections of translated files where some terms or words are separated inconveniently?

Then you should take a closer look at non-breaking spaces and special hyphens and other special characters!

Such special characters enable the pagination of translated texts to be controlled “smartly” and minimise the need for post-formatting.

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Use special characters for technical translations

During technical translation with CAT tools, non-breaking spaces and hyphens are retained. You no longer need to pay attention to unwanted line breaks in names/range specifications etc. in your final layout of the translated document. This is because the non-breaking characters automatically control line breaks.

Optimize documents with special characters prior to translation

When creating the technical documentation, you should make sure that you use non-breaking hyphens and spaces. This will save you a lot of work after the translation.

Especially with multilingual translations, you only have to insert the special characters once – in the source language document.

You can find further information on optimizing documents for technical translation here:

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Entering special characters

Special space characters

Spaces of different width

For typographic purposes, word processing programs offer spaces of various widths. The naming is based on an old typographical unit of measurement: the quad.

The following table summarizes the most important spaces and explains their function and how to enter them:

Space Unicode Keyboard input Word InDesign FrameMaker Non-breaking space
Normal space
(four-per-em space)
Non-breaking space
(four-per-em space)
No-break space
CTRL Shift Space CTRL Shift Space CTRL Alt X CTRL Space
En quad En space
CTRL Shift N Esc s n
Em quad Em space
CTRL Shift N Esc s m
Six-per-em space Six-per-em space
Narrow, non-breaking space Narrow No-Break Space U+202F Esc s t

A detailed overview is provided by Rotkel. There you can also find keystrokes for special spaces and operating systems.

Special separation options

You can use special characters for hyphenation to

  • Prevent a break between 2 words/characters that are linked by a hyphen
  • Hyphenate at the desired position in the word
  • Suppress hyphenation
Hyphen Unicode Keyboard input  Word InDesign Framemaker Function
Non-breaking hyphen Non-breaking hyphen
CTRL Shift – CTRL Shift – CTRL Alt – Esc – w Prevents line break
Soft hyphen Ctrl – CTRL Shift – Ctrl – Hyphenation takes place at marked position (if necessary)
Suppress hyphenation symbol Esc n s No hyphenation for marked word

Use of non-breaking spaces and hyphens

Non-breaking spaces and hyphens are special characters that do what their name says: they prevent the line break between the characters/words. Their use will keep certain strings and/or words together on a line.

This makes sense, for example, if you do not want a line break in the middle of a company name such as PRODOC Translations GmbH or the name of a standard such as DIN EN ISO 13849‑1.

Special characters for pagination control – Screenshot of the effect

Other special characters


Always use the ellipsis sign instead of 3 consecutive full stops.
Because 3 full stops create a new segment in the CAT tool.
This results in invalid entries for the translation memory.

Entering the ellipsis character

The ellipsis character is entered in Windows with the key combination Alt+0131.

We check all documents for optimal formatting before starting a translation. If we find problem areas, we point them out to our customers. They then have the choice of carrying out the optimization themselves or entrusting us with it, alternatively. Many customers make use of the service provided by us

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Dipl.-Ing. Stefan Weimar

Dipl.-Ing. Stefan Weimar

Managing Director

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