Spaces when writing?

So, everywhere i’ve seen Japanese written so far (which admittedly is limited as i’ve only been going a few months), there are no spaces and i thought that was how it was, and that is how it is described when you read textbooks.

However, the Japanese person i’ve been talking to recently leaves spaces between words all the time. Is he doing this to try to be helpful to me cos he knows my Japanese is not so good, or is this how Japanese people really write sometimes?

Adding on to this, i wanted to ask, when i’m handwriting on paper and i get to the end of a line, is it usual to carry the word onto the next line if there’s no space like we do in English, or would Japanese people write to the very end and put a new character on a new line even if it was the middle of a word?

They’re being helpful.

The only places I ever see spaces are in games that don’t use kanji, to avoid confusion.

Yes, breaking words in the middle is normal.


Fantastic… I always space out my words in English to avoid there being a gap at the end of the line, so this works well for my inner perfectionist, :).

Interesting, I hate having different sized spaces between the words - I’d rather not have the words go to the end of the line XD

nah… the trick is to achieve perfect spacing between words AND never have uneven ends. A near-impossible feat, but it’s happened now and again.



Isn’t this just the ‘justify’ setting??

There is no hyphenation or splitting, I don’t think the concept of “word” translates nicely into Japanese. For example on level 4 is 「耳打ち」 one word, or two, …?

It is a nice way to help reading though, because if you don’t know the grammar and vocab beforehand Japanese is very hard to parse. But the splitting is rather arbitrary, you could argue for multiple ways how to split.

I know you weren’t really asking, but it’s definitely one word - since it has a dictionary entry and is a standalone unit in that respect. Parsers would pick it up as 耳打ち quite happily.

The main issue is that browsers/applications by default have no way to break Japanese (and Thai etc) without morphological analysis. Languages with spaces are pretty simple - break middle of word and hyphenate, or wrap based on word boundaries (spaces/punctuation).

It is possible for Japanese via things like budou or kuromoji which I believe (some) high-end publications that want nice typography would use (newspapers, journals, books?)

Just checked some books and newspapers, I think they don’t care (or it’s not really a problem) :slight_smile:

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Well, there is some ambiguity between “word” and 言葉 and 単語. For instance, if you look at the sentence 花が咲いた in Japanese class (for natives) and analyze it for the individual 単語, they’ll tell you it’s 1) 花 2) が 3) 咲い 4) た

This is a bit contrary to what English speakers would expect, I think, because I think we would usually think of 咲いた as one word that is conjugated into the past tense, but that is one practical way that 単語 differs from “word”.


ah, no, ‘justify’ is something i’d never use on the computer funnily enough. I was talking about handwriting text on paper, i guess what i do is a kind of justify yes. Somehow it just feels wrong on the computer however and i write like ‘normal’.

I just realised i’m quite weird.

It still depends on format to some degree. I can’t recall ever seeing marketing/ads on the train, or billboards etc where they just slice a word in the middle of the main tagline. If there needs to be an impact and they can easily manually set the type without slicing, they will.

Until recently it just wouldn’t have been possible, so everyone is used to random breaks. I agree that it doesn’t really matter, but there is still some preference for logical breaks where viable. I think in the majority of cases it simply isn’t worth the hassle.

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Also worth noting that Japanese children are taught to write essays using special grid paper (genkoyoushi) where they write in every box one hiragana or kanji character or punctuation mark. When you get to the last box on a line, you continue to the next line. So there’s no concept of breaking between words as there is in English.



^Yes, this.
There are rules regarding punctuation and certain kana, so it’s not a complete free-for-all.

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