The honorific full-width space

Why Chinese people complain if you randomly remove full-width spaces

The full-width space’s function as punctuation separating logical groupings of words is relatively well-known; however, it also has a function in the Chinese language that seems to be completely unknown in the West.

In Chinese, the full-width space can be used as an honorific marker, pretty much in the same way the Japanese go- or o- particles are used, except that it is (obviously) not pronounced; that is, it is prefixed to the noun being marked for respect.

This usage is a traditional notation called 挪抬 (nuótái / no4toi4, loosely “displacement as formula of respect”) and it is still very much in current use. It is still used in a lot of formal documents, including letters and notices produced by or destined to commercial enterprises and government agencies.

Other honorific notations

Traditionally, there are other notations — involving line breaks and outdents — for indicating additional levels of respect. However, most of these other notations have largely fallen out of use; the honorific full-width space and the honorific line break are the only notations still in common use.