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RE: ASCII-only startup message?

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: ASCII-only startup message?
Date: Sat, 26 Dec 2015 18:51:35 -0800 (PST)

> > I have never seen any doc or typography guideline that favors
> > a quotation mark over an apostrophe for English contractions,
> > possessives, or non-word plurals.  Quite the contrary.  These
> > use cases are precisely the raison d'être for the apostrophe.
> I don't know much about this topic, so this may not be the type of documents
> you're looking for. Are you aware of the following passage, on page 274 of
> the latest Unicode standard (page 19 of
> http://www.unicode.org/versions/Unicode8.0.0/ch06.pdf)? I believe that David
> Kastrup already quoted it.
> > Apostrophes
> >
> > U+0027 apostrophe is the most commonly used character for apostrophe. For
> > historical reasons, U+0027 is a particularly overloaded character. In
> > ASCII, it is used to represent a punctuation mark (such as right single
> > quotation mark, left single quotation mark, apostrophe punctuation, vertical
> > line, or prime) or a modifier letter (such as apostrophe modifier or acute
> > accent).
> > Punctuation marks generally break words; modifier letters generally are
> > considered part of a word. When text is set, U+2019 right single quotation
> > mark is preferred as apostrophe, but only U+0027 is present on most 
> > keyboards.
> > Software commonly offers a facility for automatically converting the U+0027
> > apostrophe to a contextually selected curly quotation glyph. In these 
> > systems,
> > a U+0027 in the data stream is always represented as a straight vertical 
> > line
> > and can never represent a curly apostrophe or a right quotation mark.
> >
> > Letter Apostrophe.
> >
> > U+02BC modifier letter apostrophe is preferred where the apostrophe is to
> > represent a modifier letter (for example, in transliterations to indicate
> > a glottal stop). In the latter case, it is also referred to as a letter
> > apostrophe.
> >
> > Punctuation Apostrophe.
> >
> > U+2019 right single quotation mark is preferred where the character is to
> > represent a punctuation mark, as for contractions: “We’ve been here
> > before.” In this latter case, U+2019 is also referred to as a punctuation
> > apostrophe.
> >
> > An implementation cannot assume that users’ text always adheres to the
> > distinction between these characters. The text may come from different
> > sources, including mapping from other character sets that do not make this
> > distinction between the letter apostrophe and the punctuation 
> > apostrophe/right
> > single quotation mark. In that case, all of them will generally be 
> > represented
> > by U+2019.
> >
> > The semantics of U+2019 are therefore context dependent. For example, if
> > surrounded by letters or digits on both sides, it behaves as an in-text
> > punctuation character and does not separate words or lines.
> I understand this as an explicit endorsement of "There’s" over "There's",
> and of "it’s the _wrong thing_" over "it's the _wrong thing_".  Mark Davis
> (the president of the Unicode consortium) clarified this in an email back in
> 1999: 
> http://www.unicode.org/mail-arch/unicode-ml/Archives-Old/UML017/0558.html

I see, and I thank both you and Paul for that information, of which I was 

I should have checked first the Wikipedia article for Apostrophe, which covers
all of this (including the Unicode corner) quite well:

The topic seems still to be muddy water.  Unicode still confuses quotation
mark with apostrophe.  At least the _role_ of apostrophe (used within a word)
is recognized as what I said, as opposed to the role of quotation marks (used
around words).

But Unicode has apparently decided to consider the _same character_ as
appropriate for both uses.  Odd that that choice is made over and against
the same kind of confusion wrt use of the ASCII apostrophe character, which
they rightfully point to as (even more) overloaded in its use ("U+0027 is a
particularly overloaded character").

I bend to Unicode's choice in this, of course.  But it is too bad, IMO,
that it does not distinguish apostrophe and quotation marks in usage,
but recommends using the _same character for both uses_.

Recommending this, even when they could have done otherwise (ASCII's
existing-keyboards excuse does not apply to Unicode choices), seems like
a mistake to me.  But what do I know?  I'm no expert in these things.
And Unicode has wider concerns than English typography - similar-looking
glyphs apparently have different usages across languages.  Perhaps this
confounding of apostrophe and quote mark was a compromise of some kind.

I do agree that one character for two uses (apostrophe and quotation) is
better than one character for several uses, which has been the case for
the ASCII apostrophe.  I am surprised that two different characters were
not defined for these different uses, however, even if they might often
have similar or even identical appearances.

Oh well.  I would still argue for for _Emacs_ to use ASCII apostrophe (and
not a quote mark) for apostrophe uses, both on the basis of appearance -
at least in the default fonts and in the fonts I use - and (especially) on
the basis of simplicity of use for most keyboard users.  Emacs is about
writing and editing more than it is about presentation-level typography.

In terms of appearance, I disagree with Paul's appreciation that "it’s"
is preferable to "it's" in the default Emacs fonts (and more generally in
the fonts I use, for Emacs and for technical doc applications).  But in
any case, I think that ease of use is more important for Emacs than
appearance, for this.

Anyway, thanks to both of you, again, for teaching me about Unicode's
equivalence of apostrophe and quotation mark, and its preference of this
character for the uses of an apostrophe.

It's not my personal preference for uses of an apostrophe.  It's not the
preference used (so far) by my company in its technical docs (FWIW).
And I don't think it should be the preference for Emacs - which _should_
generally use Unicode, and which should respect its recommendations when
appropriate, but which need not bend to using the Unicode right quotation
mark as apostrophe.

I think (so far) that Emacs should stick to using ASCII apostrophe as
apostrophe, in spite of the Unicode standard's recommendation here.
And this mainly for simplicity of use, not appearance (though I also
prefer the appearance, personally, in the fonts I know).

I have now heard Unicode's recommendation (thanks to you), but I don't
read the reason given for that recommendation as a strong reason.

Of course, even the weakest of reasons given by Unicode becomes a
strong reason (in general), just by virtue of being a Unicode
Consortium recommendation.  Whether it is appropriate for Emacs is
another story.

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