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Re: [Groff] Getting properly rendered single quotes in groff

From: Ralph Corderoy
Subject: Re: [Groff] Getting properly rendered single quotes in groff
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2008 11:26:59 +0100

Hi Stuart,

> > So it seems clear that man pages should use \` or its verbose \(ga
> > equivalent when they mean a shell backtick operator, ASCII character
> > 96.
> Seeing as \` has been there since the early days, and assuming that
> there aren't too many instances that need correcting, rendering `
> ("open quote") as ' (neutral quote mark) in non-UTF-8 environments now
> seems at least conceivable.

And this would be done in, e.g. -Tascii, because most fonts don't have
nicely balanced-looking `' glyphs.  Just to double-check, a lot's been

> FWIW, section 2.1 of CSTR #54 sheds some light on this -- troff did
> indeed use ` and ' as opening/closing quotes, and \` and \' for the
> plain ` and ' ASCII characters.  When ' changed so that it no longer
> mirrored `, a decision had to be made on whether \' should yield an
> apostrophe or an acute accent.

I don't see how you get that last sentence from 2.1.  When the
appearance of ' changed over time, there wasn't any decision, things
were just left alone I'd have thought.

> Producing an apostrophe would be best where \' was used (for a literal
> ASCII single quote), and producing an acute accent would have been
> necessary where overstriking was used to add an acute accent to
> another character.  CSTR #54 defined \' as an acute accent, equivalent
> to \(aa, and that's what groff ended up implementing.

I'm not sure that paragraph is correct.  Search for `0222' in and
you'll see 7th Ed. Unix had those escapes in 1979.  Back then, ASCII
terminals still had them with a balanced appearance so the change to
unbalanced fonts wasn't the motivation.

> \(aq then had to be added after \' was changed, to provide a way to
> produce an ASCII apostrophe.  For the linux man pages, it would seem
> reasonable to use \(aq where desired, but for use in other man pages,
> that might not be suitable.

Where do you see \(aq as desired in the Linux man pages?  Only when
-Tascii is being used?

Does it all boil down to whether -Tascii should map the input `' onto ''
these days because fonts have changed?  Anyone know why ' changed in
fonts to not lean?  I remember 'quoting' used to be wrapped in
right-leaning apostrophes on both sides at one time on ASCII terminals.



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