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

From: Jeff Conrad
Subject: Re: [groff] [patch] modernize -T ascii rendering of opening single quote
Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2019 05:46:59 +0000

On Friday, February 1, 2019 3:31 PM, Ingo Schwarze wrote:

> And the correct way to mark up a single-quoted string in low-level
> roff(7) is \(oq...\(cq, with the rendering decided by the output
> device.

I think this gets to the essence of the matter.  The character table for
-Tascii should recognize that the ASCII character set doesn’t have
opening or closing single quotes, and accordingly maps both to ‘\(aq’.
In a sense, this is a glyph diddle, but it’s one that, at least in my
experience (and I go back to the actual typewriter), has been
universally established practice.  The same cannot be said for mapping
‘\(oq’ to ‘\(ga’, which strikes me as akin to treating ‘O’ and ‘0’ and
‘l’ and ‘1’ as interchangeable.

I think “modernise” is a misnomer here, because I suggest that the
existing mapping isn’t archaic; rather, it’s always been wrong.
Practically, I think it’s simply an artifact of the troff coding idiom
‘`quotes'’, which was early markup for ‘\(oqquotes\(cq’ before those
characters existed.  This remains a markup idiom: with troff, the
rendering is ‘\(oqquotes\(cq’ rather than ‘\(gaquotes\(aq’.  Perhaps an
early example of being taken seriously but not literally ...

Is some history lost with the proposed changed?  Sure.  But is history
the overarching consideration?  I suggest that it preferably should be
getting the best “typography” possible with the ASCII character set.

It’s obviously easy to miss a typo with the proposed change, but as
several have pointed out, ‘-Tascii’ isn’t the best for proofreading;
‘-a’ is clearly better, but it gets tedious for a document of any
length—so I usually generate a PDF.

> Any ideas how to resolve this clash of priorities?

Alas, this is above my pay grade.


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