Re: Soft hyphen (Re: Cougar comments) (fwd)

I am forwarding the message below, most probably only posted to
the Unicode list, from the president of the Unicode consortium.
It makes things clear, at least for Unicode.

Regards,	Martin.

To: Multiple Recipients of <unicode@Unicode.ORG>
Reply-To: Mark Davis <>
From: Unicode Discussion <unicode@Unicode.ORG>
Date: Mon, 12 May 1997 09:51:02 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Soft hyphen (Re: Cougar comments)

The Unicode character 00AD is defined to be invisible, except at the end
of a line, where it may or may not be visible, depending on the script.

Unicode Discussion wrote:
> Martin J. Duerst wrote:
> > Your understanding of the character U+00AD as a code that is always
> > visible is based on one sentence in section 6.3.3 of ISO 8859-1:
> >
> >       A graphic character that is imaged by a graphic symbol identical
> >       with, or similar to, that representing HYPHEN, for use when
> >       a line break has been established within a word.
> >
> > Now it is rather strange that one should have two hyphens
> > and SOFT HYPHEN) that are always visible. Evere decent typographer
> > or text coder would first ask for a dash. Also, if the hyphen were
> > always to be shown, the word "SOFT" would be very difficult to
> > explain. In addition, for a thing that is always shown, there would
> > not be any need for a special explanation.
> Call me indecent, but I disagree. A "soft" hyphen is a visible
> character that is inserted by a text formatter after a line break
> within a word has been established. In other words, when a text
> formatter determines that a word will be broken and the second part
> will begin a new line, the formatter inserts a soft hyphen after the
> first part of the word rather than a "hard" hyphen. If the text is
> later reformatted, the soft hyphen may be easily removed when it no
> longer falls on a line break, whereas the "hard" hyphen is left in the
> text regardless of its position.
> Some arguably decent typographers and desktop publishers know that when
> you send a soft hyphen to a printing or display device that supports
> ISO 8859-1, the soft hyphen is imaged regardless of its position within
> a line of text.
> Here is a soft hy­phen. Does your mail reader support 8859? Did your
> mail reader ignore the hyphen because it doesn't fall at the end of the
> line? When you send the text to your printer, does the hyphen go away?
> Should every current text editor, formatter and printing device be
> declared obsolete because none contain built-in intelligence to deal
> with the conditional display of certain "displayed" (as opposed to
> "control") characters?
> > That the SHY is indeed only displayed if it turns up to lie at the
> > end of a line of rendered text is further supported by the fact
> > that ISO 10646 as well as the ISO/ECMA registrations and probably
> > even the ISO-8859-1 original write "SHY" and not "-" in the
> > appropriate location in the code charts.
> "Further supported"? First you assume a meaning for "soft", then
> justify your premise based on the use of "shy" in the code charts. Is
> this decent logic?
> Within an HTML document there is markup and there is displayed text.
> Blurring that distinction by associating conditions for the display of
> a particular character based on that character's post-formatted
> position would change the whole notion of displayed text -- a very bad
> precedent at odds with current practice.
> David Perrell

Received on Monday, 12 May 1997 14:46:13 UTC