Just wondering, how pernickety does one really have to be in writing and print about leaving a space after an apostrophe? I'm used to French, where no space is left - j'aime, l'église etc, not j' aime or l' église - and the purpose of the apostrophe seems to be largely the same, it replaces a letter - ag òl and ag iarraidh BUT a' deamamh and a' faicinn. How wrong is it to write a'deanamh or a'faicinn (cos such a rendering is always marked as a typo)? Tapadh leibh.
In Scottish Gaelic it is a common convention to still treat the shortened words with apostrophe marking omitted sounds as separate words, thus always: m’ athair for my father, am fear a th’ ann for the man/the one that is there, tha mi a’ dol I am going, etc. That’s the convention in the orthography. Similarly compound nouns are almost always written with a dash: a-rithist again, a-mach outwards, bus-sgoile school bus, etc.
On the other hand, in closely-related Irish the conventions are different, you write always m’athair for my father without any space. Arís for again and amach for outwards, without a dash in compound words whose constituents are not clearly separate words anymore and are treated as single words today. But then bus scoile for school bus without a dash but with a space, as both constituents are still seen as separate words…
So yes, the convention in Gaelic (but eg. not in Irish) is to always put the space between words even if they are contracted with an apostrophe even if unstressed and pronounced as if connected to other words.
Here is a forum post about that:
There are teachers and courses where correct punctuation is expected. Duolingo seems more forgiving of mistakes, but there are also some questions where correct punctuation is needed to get the answer marked correct.
In the case of verbal nouns such as a' dèanamh or ag ionnsachadh, I think a space is required after an a' because the a'/ag is taking the place of what used to be a word (aig, I think) -- ["I am at doing it" or "I am at learning it"]. However, the fluent speakers might want to correct this explanation.