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Re: [groff] [patch] modernize -T ascii rendering of opening single quote

From: Anthony J. Bentley
Subject: Re: [groff] [patch] modernize -T ascii rendering of opening single quote
Date: Fri, 01 Feb 2019 13:49:06 -0700

Doug McIlroy writes:
> If I were conscientious in writing about m4, I might choose
> to use \(oq and \(cq to assure pretty typesetting.

That would break any sort of copy and paste in typeset output or even
a UTF-8 terminal. The correct method would be to use \(aq (not \(aa) and
\(ga for source code samples.

The distinction between ` ' and left and right quotes seems to have
taken hold in the mid 80s. Both Mac Roman (1984?) and Windows 2.0's
CP1252 (1987?) separate the characters. I don't know when terminal fonts
started making the switch but xterm's default font has looked that way
as long as I can remember (which, granted, is not that long).

> Still, this is a cautionary tale. What other sorts of
> documents would suffer badly under this change?

Other arcane character substitutions exist in troff. For example,
^ shows up as U+02C6 in typeset output, meaning literal '^' has to be
escaped as \(ha. ~ shows up as U+02DC, and literal '~' must be
escaped as \(ti. Many, many document authors are unaware of this
distinction, which makes reading (or worse, searching) such incorrectly
typeset documents as POSIX more than a little grating.

Anthony J. Bentley

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