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Japanese punctuation

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Title: Japanese punctuation  
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Japanese punctuation

Japanese punctuation (約物 Yakumono) includes various written marks (besides characters and numbers), which differ from those found in European languages, as well as some not used in formal Japanese writing but frequently found in more casual writing, such as exclamation and question marks.

Japanese can be written horizontally or vertically, and some punctuation marks adapt to this change in direction. Parentheses, curved brackets, square quotation marks, ellipses, dashes, and swung dashes are rotated clockwise 90° when used in vertical text (see diagram).

Japanese punctuation marks are usually full width (that is, occupying an area that is the same as the surrounding characters).

Punctuation began to be used in Japanese when translations from European languages became common in the 19th century.


  • Japanese punctuation marks 1
    • Brackets 1.1
      • Braces 1.1.1
      • Parentheses 1.1.2
      • Square brackets 1.1.3
      • Others 1.1.4
    • Comma 1.2
    • Ellipsis 1.3
    • Full stop 1.4
      • Words containing full stops 1.4.1
    • Interpunct 1.5
    • Part alternation mark 1.6
    • Quotation marks 1.7
      • Single quotation marks 1.7.1
      • Double quotation marks 1.7.2
    • Space 1.8
    • Wave dash 1.9
  • Other punctuation marks in common use 2
    • Colon 2.1
    • Exclamation mark 2.2
    • Question mark 2.3
  • See also 3
  • References 4

Japanese punctuation marks

Diagram showing differences in placement of punctuation marks in vertical and horizontal writing, in a sentence containing hiragana, katakana and kanji.


Main Japanese article: 括弧

Various types of brackets (括弧 kakko) are used in Japanese. As in English, brackets are used in pairs to set apart or interject text within other text. When writing vertically, brackets are rotated clockwise ninety degrees. Each bracket occupies its own square when using genkō yōshi.


{ }

namikakko (波括弧, wave brackets)


( )

marukakko (丸括弧, round brackets)

Square brackets

[ ]

kakukakko (角括弧, cornered brackets)


【 】

sumitsukikakko (隅付き括弧, ink-filled brackets), also known as Lenticular brackets.


Main Japanese article 読点
Symbol Unicode JIS X 0213 Encoding
U+3001 1-1-2

The comma (読点 tōten) is used in many contexts, principally for marking-off separate elements within a sentence. In horizontal writing, the comma is placed at the bottom right of the preceding character. In vertical writing, it is placed immediately below and to the right of the last character, in a separate square if using genkō yōshi. In horizontally written manuscripts that contain a mixture of Japanese and Western characters, the full-width comma may be incorporated as well. No extra space is left after a comma.

Symbol Unicode JIS X 0213 Encoding
U+FF0C 1-1-4

Rules for using the comma are comparatively less strict in Japanese than in English.


Main Japanese article: リーダー (記号)
Symbol Unicode JIS X 0213 Encoding
U+2026 1-3-63
Symbol Unicode JIS X 0213 Encoding
U+2025 1-3-63

Ellipses (リーダー rīdā (leaders), 点線 tensen (dotted line), or てんてん ten-ten ("dot dot") indicate an intentional omission or abbreviation, or a pause in speech, an unfinished thought or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence (aposiopesis). Ellipsis was adopted into Japanese from European languages.

The ellipsis is often three dots or six dots (in two groups of three dots), though variations in number of dots exist. The dots can be either on the baseline or centred between the baseline and the ascender when horizontal; the dots are centred horizontally when vertical.

Other uses:

  • As a substitute for dashes
  • In manga, the ellipsis by itself often represents speechlessness or a "pregnant pause"

Full stop

Main Japanese article: 句点
Symbol Unicode JIS X 0213 Encoding
U+3002 1-1-3

The full stop (句点 kuten) is a small circle. In horizontal writing, the full stop is placed in the same position as it would be in English, that is, at the bottom right of the preceding character. In vertical writing, it is placed immediately below and to the right of the last character, in a separate square if using genkō yōshi. (Note the difference in placement with the traditional Chinese full stop, which is placed in the centre of the square.)

Unlike the Western full stop, it is often used to separate consecutive sentences, rather than to finish every sentence; it is frequently left out where a sentence stands alone, or where text is terminated by a quotation mark instead. No extra space is left after a full stop.

In manuscripts that contain a mixture of Japanese and Western characters, the Western full stop may be incorporated as well.

Words containing full stops

Starting in the 1980s, advertising copy writers began incorporating full stops in titles and other advertising. In the 1990s, the group Morning Musume (モーニング娘。) began using a full stop in its name, starting a fad for this usage. Other examples include the following:


Main Japanese article: 中黒

The interpunct (中黒 nakaguro, "middle black") or "katakana middle dot" (as the Unicode consortium calls it) is a small dot used for interword separation. It is also known as nakapochi, nakapotsu and nakaten. It has a fixed width that is the same as most kana characters.

Uses include:

  • Separating Japanese words where the intended meaning would be unclear if the characters were written side-by-side
  • To separate listed items, instead of a comma: 小・中学校 (elementary and middle school) versus 小、中学校
  • To separate foreign words and names when written in kana: パーソナル・コンピューター (personal computer), and occasionally for Japanese names, particularly when there would otherwise be confusion as to where one name ends and another begins (in creative writing, especially manga and light novels when transcribing proper nouns, there's a fad of substituting the interpunct with an equal sign, a white star or any other "fitting" symbol)
  • As a substitute for a double hyphen
  • To separate titles, names and positions: 部長補佐・鈴木 (Assistant Department Head Suzuki)
  • As a decimal point when writing numbers in kanji: 三・一四 (3.14)
  • In place of hyphens, dashes and colons when writing vertically

Part alternation mark

The part alternation mark
Main Japanese article: 庵点
Symbol Unicode JIS X 0213 Encoding
U+303D 1-3-28

The part alternation mark (庵点 ioriten or 歌記号 utakigō) is used to indicate the beginning of a song, or the beginning of the next player's part.

It was most common in Noh chanting books and Renga (linked verse). In Noh books it is used to mark the beginning of each character's (or the chorus') parts. The opening square quotation mark (「) may also be used.

Quotation marks

Main Japanese article: 括弧

Single quotation marks

「 」

kagikakko (鉤括弧, key brackets)

Double quotation marks

『 』

Double quotation marks (二重鉤括弧 nijūkagikakko) are used to mark quotes within quotes: 「...『...』...」 as well as to mark book titles (italic type is not used for this purpose in Japanese). They are also used sometimes, in fiction, to denote text that is heard through a telephone or other device.


Symbol Unicode JIS X 0213 Encoding
  U+3000 1-1-1  
Use of spaces on genkō yōshi
1. 3 spaces before the title.
2. 1 space between the author's family name and given name; 1 space below.
3. Each new paragraph begins after a space.
4. Subheadings have 1 empty line before and after, and have 2 spaces above.
5. Punctuation marks normally occupy their own square, except when they occur at the bottom of a line, in which case they share a square with the last character of the line.

A space ( ) is any empty (non-written) zone between written sections. In Japanese, the space is referred to by the transliterated English name (スペース supēsu). A Japanese space is the same width as a CJK character and is thus also called an "ideographic space".

In English, spaces are used for interword separation as well as separation between punctuation and words. In normal Japanese writing, no spaces are left between words, except if the writing is exclusively in hiragana or katakana (or with little or no kanji), in which case spaces may be required to avoid confusion.

In Japanese, a single space is often left before the first character in a new paragraph, especially when writing on genkō yōshi, and a space is left after non-Japanese punctuation marks (such as exclamation points and question marks). A space may be left between the family and given names as well. When the character is not easily available, a direct HTML equivalent is the entity (em-space) which outputs the same fullwidth " " glyph.

A fullwidth space may be used where a colon or comma would be used in English: 大和銀行 大阪支店 (Yamato Bank, Osaka Branch).

Wave dash

The wave dash
Main Japanese article: 波ダッシュ
Symbol Unicode JIS X 0213 Encoding
U+301C 1-1-33

The wave dash (波ダッシュ nami dasshu, wave dash) resembles a lengthened tilde.

Uses in Japanese include:

  • To indicate ranges (5時〜6時, from 5 o'clock to 6 o'clock; 東京〜大阪 Tokyo to Osaka). In such cases it may be read as ...kara...made (...から...まで)
  • To separate a title from a subtitle on the same line; in English a colon is used for this purpose.
  • To mark subtitles: 〜概要〜
  • In pairs, in place of dashes or brackets: 〜〜答え〜〜
  • To indicate origin: フランス〜 (from France)
  • To indicate a long or drawn-out vowel (ですよね〜 or あ〜〜〜), usually for comic or cute effect
  • To indicate or suggest that music is playing: ♬ 〜
  • To suggest a ruled line: 〜〜〜〜〜 or 〜・〜・〜

Other punctuation marks in common use

When used in Japanese, these punctuation marks are full-width rather than half-width. A full-width space is usually left after such marks when writing in Japanese.[1]


Main Japanese article: コロン (記号)

The colon (コロン koron) consists of two equally sized dots centered on the same vertical line. As a rule, a colon informs the reader that what follows proves, clarifies, explains, or simply enumerates elements of what is referred to before. Although not a native Japanese punctuation mark, the colon is sometimes used, especially in academic writing.

As in English, the colon is commonly used in Japanese to indicate time (4:05, instead of 4時5分 or 4分5秒) or for lists (日時:3月3日 4時5分 Day/time: March 3, 4:05pm).

Exclamation mark

Main Japanese article: 感嘆符

The exclamation point or mark (感嘆符 kantanfu) is usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume, and generally marks the end of a sentence. A sentence ending in an exclamation mark is either an actual exclamation ("Wow!", "Boo!"), a command ("Stop!"), or is intended to be astonishing in some way ("They were the footprints of a gigantic hound!").

While there is no exclamation point in formal Japanese, it is very commonly used, especially in casual writing, fiction and manga.

Question mark

Main Japanese article: 疑問符

The question or interrogation mark (疑問符 gimonfu, はてな hatena) replaces the full stop at the end of an interrogative sentence. The question mark character is also often used in place of missing or unknown data. There is no question mark in formal Japanese (even questions ending in か (-ka) take the full stop), but it is very commonly used, especially in casual and creative writing and in manga.

See also


  1. ^
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