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I have a very simple question. I would like to know whether when writing Italian it is best to include a space after the apostrophe or not.

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    You should never include a space after an apostrophe except cases in which that apostrophe is not an apostrophe but a sign of elision like in po'. Sep 13 '15 at 17:54
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    @ElberichSchneider's answer is correct, apart for the fact that an apostrophe is always an apostrophe, even in po’, mo’ and the like.
    – DaG
    Sep 13 '15 at 18:12
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The apostrophe must not be followed by a space (and it's better avoiding breaking a line at it, if not under severe constraints like typesetting in narrow columns), except in a few cases where, by historical reasons, it marks troncamento instead of elisione. The cases are

po’ (poco)
mo’ (modo)
ca’ (casa)
ve’ (vedi)
to’ (togli)
be’ (bene)

(possibly some others that I can’t remember now).

The last three can be also written veh, toh and beh (see, for instance, To’ o toh). It would be incorrect writing these words with an accent (but it can be seen, unfortunately).

The apostrophe can be preceded by a space, but this is seen only in poetry (where other cases of truncation marked by the apostrophe, so followed by a space can be found, here the reason is metric):

Allor fu la paura un poco queta
che nel lago del cor m'era durata
la notte ch’i’ passai con tanta pieta.

E come quei che con lena affannata
uscito fuor del pelago a la riva
si volge a l’acqua perigliosa e guata,

così l’animo mio, ch’ancor fuggiva,
si volse a retro a rimirar lo passo
che non lasciò già mai persona viva.

Poi ch’ei posato un poco il corpo lasso,
ripresi via per la piaggia diserta,
sì che ’l piè fermo sempre era ’l più basso.

(Inferno, canto I, 19–30)

A different case is that of the imperative forms

da' di'
fa'
sta'
va'

where the apostrophe actually denotes neither truncation nor elision; these are alternative forms to dai dici fai stai vai that developed along with them. The apostrophe here is just an orthographic convention. Also these forms should have a space after them (unless, of course, punctuation follows).

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    I guess that, like me, many native speakers will be surprised (to say the least) to learn that toh can also be written to' and stands for togli. Sep 14 '15 at 6:56
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    A couple of cases where the space goes before the apostrophe should be added: dialect, like 'namo for annamo, and numbers, like '900 for 1900 (source) Sep 14 '15 at 7:04
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    Personally, I always am surprised that toh is actually admitted by some dictionaries. Every time I read it, it looks like one were to write un poh.
    – DaG
    Sep 14 '15 at 7:32
  • Among the examples of troncamento, one might want to add such verbs in the imperative mood as fa' and da' (not to be confused with the indicative forms fa and ).
    – DaG
    Sep 14 '15 at 7:34
  • @DaG They are not truncations, but independent forms with a parallel development. But you're right, they should be mentioned.
    – egreg
    Sep 14 '15 at 8:35

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