The Tibetan script uses spaces sparingly, relying instead on the tsheg. There is no punctuation equivalent to a period in Tibetan; Tibetan shad characters indicate the end of a phrase, not a sentence. Phrases are often metricalâ€”that is, written after every N syllablesâ€”and a new sentence can often start within the middle of a phrase. Sentence boundaries need to be determined grammatically rather than by punctuation.
Traditionally there is nothing akin to a paragraph in Tibetan text. It is typical to have many pages of text without a paragraph breakâ€”that is, without an explicit line break. The closest thing to a paragraph in Tibetan is a new section or topic starting with U+0F12 or U+0F08. However, these occur inline: one section ends and a new one starts on the same line, and the new section is marked only by the presence of one of these characters.
Some modern books, newspapers, and magazines format text more like English with a break before each section or topicâ€”and (often) the title of the section on a separate line. Where this is done, authors insert an explicit line break. Western punctuation (full stop, question mark, exclamation mark, comma, colon, semicolon, quotes) is starting to appear in Tibetan documents, particularly those published in India, Bhutan, and Nepal. Because there are no formal rules for their use in Tibetan, they get treated generically by default. In Tibetan documents published in China, CJK bracket and punctuation characters occur frequently; it is recommended to treat these as in horizontally written Chinese.