Re: True quotes

Jonathan Rosenne (100320.1303@CompuServe.COM)
20 Jul 96 05:26:24 EDT


Date: 20 Jul 96 05:26:24 EDT
From: Jonathan Rosenne <100320.1303@CompuServe.COM>
To: "INTERNET:www-html@w3.org" <www-html@w3.org>
Subject: Re: True quotes
Message-ID: <960720092623_100320.1303_JHF47-1@CompuServe.COM>

At 5:19p +0100 07/18/96, Abigail wrote:
>I've always failed to see the problem with quotes. I've been using ' ` and "
>for 20 years or so, and anyone always understood what I meant.

For many years computer users had got used to a restricted character set that
used simplified approximations for several conventional typographical devices.
In a printed book you would expect to find  that minus and hyphen look
different, as do apostrophe and single quote, and the double quotes have
different shapes at the beginning and end of the quote, etc. And languages other
than English have their own conventions.

I remember reading somewhere that typographic quality text is much easier to
read and comprehend. I think it was a proper research with quantitative results.

As computer technology progressed, people have tried to overcome these
limitations using whatever means became available: using fonts for italics,
special fonts for typographical entities, expanded character sets etc. But this
is not the only approach, and there are reasons to believe it is not the best:
it puts the onus on the author, who must become a typograpical expert. If you
look at how books had been set from manuscripts, the author did not specify the
exact type of quote, for example, but rather this was done by the printers.

This was the rational for mark up languages, which are now standardised under
the SGML framework, to which HTML subscribes. The idea is to achieve
typographical quality text without bothering the author with all the technical
details of the typographer's art. At first, the tags paralleled the printer's
mark-up, then of course things moved on.

Walter Ian Kaye wrote:
>>Jonathan Rosenne wrote:
>>
>>> The best solution is not named entities, but the <q> and </q> tags...
>
>Can <q> and </q> take an attribute to specify single vs. double?

They should become single or double quote according to the typographical
conventions and limitations of your system, their level of imbedding (quotes
within quotes) and the preferences of the user (the person who looks at the
text). The system should provide means for the user to see the rules it uses and
to allow him to change them. It is not the author who specifies these
conventions, but the reader. Just has when you write <h1> it is the reader who
specifies the font, size and other properties of this heading.

This does not mean that the individual quote characters are not to be used -
there are many cases where their use is desireable and justified, and they may
be used even when unjustified. What it does mean is that if as an author you
want a certain phrase to be quoted, you use the <q> amd </q> tags and let the
system handle the details.

Of course, all this depends on vendors actually implementiing it.

Jonathan Rosenne
JR Consulting
P O Box 33641, Tel Aviv, Israel
Phone: +972 50 246 522   Fax: +972 9 56 73 53
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Jonathan_Rosenne