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Re: ASCII-only startup message?

From: Per Starbäck
Subject: Re: ASCII-only startup message?
Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2015 15:17:24 +0100

>> 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.
> Er, the question isn't whether to use a quotation mark or an
> apostrophe, it's whether to use a curved apostrophe or a
> straight apostrophe. That Unicode happens to unify straight
> apostrophe with straight single quote and curved apostrophe with
> curved single quote isn't relevant.

Right. And it is not primarily a Unicode thing, it is a typography
thing. There are a few characters that owe their existance to
typewriters which used less differentiation than you would use in
writing or in setting text. In a real book (for example) you would
never see the typewriter character ', but always a specific character,
like a left-single or right-single or a prime character.

Earlier it was a big difference between professional-looking (typeset)
text and amateurish-looking typed text (or later printed on a line
printer) with no inbetween. Straight apostrophes/quotes would only be
seen in the later kind, and would be one of the tell-tale signs of
something not done by a professional.

But of course, when technology made it easier to produce nicer-looking
output, the differences became muddled. Lots of text was produced with
nice-looking fonts by people who didn't know anything about typgraphy.
Text if often published in books more or less taken from output from
word processors used by the authors, and more and more text is read
online straight from authors you use the characters that are
conveniently located on their keyboard (as I do here for example).

Today you can see "typewriter" characters even in prestige books where
there ought to be people involved who know better, so it doesn't
surprise me that some people think that that is how an apostrophe
actually looks. Unicode has muddles it further by bad names for these
characters. I think ascii ' should have a name similar to ascii -
(HYPHEN-MINUS) which shows that this is something used as a stand-in
for several different characters.

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