To Space or Not to Space: How does spacing work in Chinese writing

As Chinese is a logographic language, the absence of spacing between words presents intriguing challenges and opportunities in the digital sphere, particularly in the fields of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

This article will delve into the nuances of Chinese writing, exploring how the lack of word spacing influences SEO strategies and marketing efforts, and how businesses can effectively navigate this linguistic landscape to reach and engage with their target audience.

Key Takeaways
🔖 No Spaces Between Chinese Characters
🔖 Paragraphs usually commence on a fresh line, often accompanied by an indentation of two characters. It’s worth noting that this indentation practice is frequently overlooked in online publications.
🔖 There is no need to include spaces after punctuation marks in Chinese writing. It’s important to note that Chinese punctuation marks occupy the same width as a Chinese character.

Why did the Chinese never adopt word spacing?

The Chinese language has never adopted word spacing primarily because of the nature of its writing system. Unlike alphabetic languages like English or French, Chinese is a logographic language. This means each character generally represents a word or a meaningful unit of language.

Chinese characters can stand alone as words, or they can be combined to form compound words. The meaning of a sentence in Chinese can often be understood based on the context and the combination of characters, even without spaces.

Moreover, traditionally, Chinese texts were written vertically from top to bottom, right to left, which doesn’t lend itself to spacing between words. While modern Chinese is often written horizontally from left to right, the tradition of not using word spacing has continued.

Spacing between Chinese characters and English words

When it comes to writing mixed language content, particularly with Chinese characters and English words, the decision to add spacing largely depends on the specific context and your audience.

In formal publications or academic papers, it is common to see a space between Chinese characters and English words for better readability. This can help clearly distinguish between the two languages and make the text easier to understand.

However, in informal contexts or online platforms, you might often see Chinese and English mixed without any spaces. This is particularly common in social media, chat applications, or websites.

The key is to consider your audience and the platform where the content will be published. If the platform allows for it and your audience finds it easier to read with spaces, then it’s a good idea to include them. On the other hand, if spaces disrupt the flow of the text or if the platform doesn’t handle mixed language spacing well, you might choose to leave them out.

It’s also important to note that while spaces can improve readability, they won’t affect the meaning of the text. Chinese readers are accustomed to reading texts without spaces, as Chinese script doesn’t use them. Therefore, whether you decide to include spaces or not, your message will still be understood.

Spacing in Chinese and SEO

Theoretically, whether or not spaces are added between Chinese characters, their meanings should be almost the same. Based on my experience, spacing doesn’t impact much on how Google ranks or understands your content. 

However, spacing in Chinese often complicates how you do keyword research – as the word order and spacing might give you different search volume data and ultimately will impact what you target and how you structure the content. 

For example, when doing a keyword research for 咖啡粉(coffee powder) in Chinese, putting a space between “coffee” and “powder” will give you a different search volume and trend.

Having a space or not between Chinese character will impact your keyword research data

⭐️ Pro Tip:
Use all the possible variation when doing keyword research to make sure you have covered enough ground. If possible, try different keyword research tools to gather a more comprehensive keyword list.

How to space properly in Chinese writing?

It’s worth noting that there is no one “right” way to approach spacing in Chinese. The choice to use spaces or not really depends on personal preference, the context in which the text will be read, and the level of the reader. 

1. General rule of spacing in Chinese writing

In Chinese writing, spacing conventions differ from those in Western languages.

Here are the key spacing rules and conventions in Chinese writing:

  • No space is needed between Chinese characters.
  • Start a paragraph start on a new line, usually with an indentation of two characters (although this is often ignored in online publication)
  • No space after punctuation. (NB! Chinese punctuation marks have the same width as a Chinese character)

2. Mind the space between English and Chinese

Although it ultimately boils down to your editorial guideline, I find Hills Learning’s rule for spacing in Chinese writing a great reference when publishing content in Chinese. 

  • Add a space between English words and Chinese words.
  • If the English word is preceded or followed by Chinese punctuation, there is no space between the English word and the Chinese punctuation.
  • There is no space between numeral and Chinese characters in date format.
  • But if the Arabic numbers include text, an abbreviation or a unit measurement in English, then there should be a space between the numerical expression and the Chinese text
  • If Chinese words are placed in parentheses, use full-width parentheses, i.e. () , with no spaces between the words and the parentheses, even if there is an English word before or after the parentheses.

3. Be consistent

It’s essential to maintain consistency in spacing. Inconsistent spacing can be confusing and make it difficult to read (or at least not visually appealing). It’s better to have consistent practice when between each block of characters. 


In conclusion, proper spacing is important when it comes to Chinese writing. Remember not to add space between Chinese words, maintain careful spacing between English and Chinese words, and strive for consistency in spacing throughout the document.

Adhering to these guidelines can significantly enhance the readability and visual appeal of published content in Chinese. And if you need to do keyword research in Chinese, try to input all the variations with and without space to ensure you have covered all the possible keywords.


Do Chinese use spaces between words?

No – you don’t need to add space between Chinese characters. Spacing is used only when you are using transliteration (Pinyin or Jyutping) to represent Chinese.

Should I use space when doing Chinese keyword research?

Yes, you should use keyword variation with AND without space to make sure you’ve covered all the ground.

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey is an SEO Consultant with 5+ years of B2B and B2C marketing experience.