W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > March 2016

Re: Hanging Punctuation Questions

From: John Hudson <john@tiro.ca>
Date: Sat, 5 Mar 2016 12:20:44 -0800
To: David Hyatt <hyatt@apple.com>, www-style list <www-style@w3.org>
Message-ID: <56DB3F9C.5090704@tiro.ca>
Dear David,

Some general comments on hanging punctuation:

The practice of hanging punctuation is so neglected, that a lot of 
people — including experienced digital typographers — do not favour it, 
or wish it to be implemented in a discreet way that involves a kind of 
compromise: punctuation extending a little into the margins, but not 
fully hanging. That kind of 'optical' alignment of margins is best 
accomplished, though, if it also takes into account letter shape 
(Adobe's optical margins algorithm attempts this, fairly well for 
European scripts and disastrously for many others). I consider this 
something different from hanging punctuation in the traditional sense, 
which is a practice in metal typography based, in turn, on manuscript 

Hanging punctuation is based on the observation that a small black 
intrusion into the expanse of white margin is less disruptive of the 
appearance of a block of text than the corresponding intrusion of white 
space into the text would be. This is important to understand and to 
see. I learned from letterpress printers to check margins by holding the 
page at a shallow angle, looking up the line of the margin. I recommend 
this, as it makes evident just how much more impact white space 
intruding into the text has than punctuation intruding into the margin.

That said, some responses to your questions, and an attempt to define a 
reasonable standard behaviour:

> (1) Can you only hang one character? That’s what I did, but if there’s a run of characters all in the Ps category should I be hanging them all when hanging-punctuation is “first” or just a single one? (Similar question for “last”.) In my research of typography examples, I do see situations where - for example - a period and quote mark together both get hung.

Correct. Another case would be stacked quotes '", and that of course 
implies e.g. ,'"

This is where things start extending too far into the margin: one or two 
narrow punctuation marks in the margin are fine, but wider punctuation 
(dashes, ellipsis) and multiple punctuation marks draw too much 
attention to themselves and stick out too far.

My take on this is that there should be a maximum distance beyond which 
punctuation should not extend.

> (3) allow-end/force-end doesn’t include hyphens. In my research of hanging punctuation, I found typographic examples of hanging punctuation where hyphens hang at the end of lines of justified text. I wonder if this should be an additional value to the property. It’s unclear to me if people want this capability or not, but I figured I’d mention it since I found examples of it.

Hyphens should definitely hang if punctuation is hanging. Hyphens are 
among the most obvious candidates for hanging because they carry so much 
white space above and below them.

[By the same token, it should be obvious that punctuation such as ! and 
? do not hang.]

> (4) How to handle kerning, e.g., for hanging-punctuation:first, if I hang an opening quote mark, the next letter may also be offset to the left, since it pushes into the quotation mark. Should kerning simply be turned off when you hang punctuation between the hung punctuation and the following glyph?

The easiest way to think about this is in terms of the purpose of 
hanging punctuation, i.e. to create a tidy block of text in which the 
margins are characterised by the shapes of letters, rather than the 
intrusion of white space around punctuation. Therefore, it follows that 
hanging punctuation should take into account kerning to letters. So, for 
example, if a line begins with a double quotation mark and an uppercase 
A, I would expect kerning to be applied between two two, and that the 
punctuation only extend so far into the margin as would align the A with 
the same letter starting a line by itself above or below. In other 
words, the hang of the quotation mark would be it's normal hang distance 
minus it's kern to the A.


1. Hang individual, narrow punctuation — including hyphen — full in the 

2. Establish a maximum hang distance to allow multiple punctuation and 
wider punctuation to extend into the margin (probably slightly wider 
than the hyphen).

3. Adjust hang distance based on kerning to adjacent non-hanging letters 
and other characters.



John Hudson
Tiro Typeworks Ltd    www.tiro.com
Salish Sea, BC        tiro@tiro.com

Getting Spiekermann to not like Helvetica is like training
a cat to stay out of water. But I'm impressed that people
know who to ask when they want to ask someone to not like
Helvetica. That's progress. -- David Berlow
Received on Saturday, 5 March 2016 20:21:16 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : Monday, 23 January 2023 02:14:57 UTC