I have recently been surprised by Spanish punctuation in a number of ways. Currently I am struggling with two problems I have conflated here: dashes and Roman vs Arabic numerals.

A book I am reading atm has this format of naming chapters:

Capítulo I. Procedimiento de arbitraje

My questions are the following:

  1. Does Spanish punctuation allow the use a dash here? → Capítulo I. — Procedimiento de arbitraje (In French, English, Polish, Czech, Russian, Slovak, German and others you can, but Spanish seems to use dashes that way quite infrequently — or is it me?)
  2. Does Spanish punctuation allow the use of Arabic numerals in chapters? → Capítulo 1. Procedimiento de arbitraje (i.e. in Polish or Czech you can go with both numbering styles)
  • Voting to close as unclear what you're asking. If you publish with an established firm, they will have their house rules and you'll have to live with them; if you self-publish, you can do what you want (but I hope you'll be consistent with whatever scheme you come up with). I don't understand why you say you're struggling. The way the question is written, it's not clear how it's based on anything other than idle curiosity. Sep 8, 2019 at 4:23
  • @aparente001 well, typography is what I am asking about. Which part is unclear? I bave read the rules, but they don't answer all questions that rules in other languages answer clearly. For instance, rules say it can only.be "Primer capítulo", but three books in a row have "Capítulo I.". Hence I am asking about both normative standards and common usage. Sep 8, 2019 at 8:14
  • You said you were struggling. How so? What leads you to be interested in this? Do you want to know what rules publishers give their authors? Do you want to know what common practice is? Is your interest confined to modern publishing, or is there a broader period that interests you? Sep 8, 2019 at 12:52
  • @aparente001 I was about to answer your comment broadly, but tbh I don't really understand your question. Can you answer this: “1. Does Spanish punctuation allow the use a dash here?”? If you can, then please provide an answer. If there is a difference between official rules and common usage, please relate to this. If this changed over time, please relate to this. If this varies between Spanish-speaking countries, please relate to this. It seems as if you required me to know all potential problems in advance. In Czech it took me 15 minutes to learn all the punctuation by comparison. Sep 8, 2019 at 13:19
  • @MrVocabulary - Thank you. I think I'm starting to understand better what you said about struggling. You are looking for a simple rule or set of rules, because you are interested in comparing among various languages. Also, you are interested in how the rules might have changed over time. Is that right? Sep 8, 2019 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


The dash seems quite odd to me in both English and Spanish. I would expect a single unit of punctuation between chapter and title, but generally a period or a colon. A period and a dash seems excessive, if not outright incorrect.

You can use either ordinal or cardinal numbers either numeric or spelled out, but in modern times it's more common to see cardinals after the noun, and ordinals before it.

  • I see, thanks. But does “Capítulo 21” work? When googled, it mostly spills out TV series episodes. Sep 8, 2019 at 13:20
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    @MrVocabulary - I checked some of the books on my shelf and none of them had "Capítulo 21." However, some of them had "21." (None had the dash.) Sep 8, 2019 at 18:22
  • @aparente001 I see, thanks! Sep 8, 2019 at 18:26
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    @MrVocabulary: there is nothing wrong with "Capítulo 21". You could format it any of the following ways: Capítulo 21, Capítulo 21.º, Capítulo veintiuno, Capítulo vigésimoprimero, Vigésimoprimer capítulo, 21.ᵉʳ capítulo, Capítulo XXI, XXI Capítulo, in addition to as aparente001 mentioned, just using the number by itself. Sep 8, 2019 at 18:30
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    I've also seen no punctuation between the number and the text. Sep 11, 2019 at 15:14

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