[XeTeX] Typographic question : quotation marks and apostrophes

Jonathan Kew jfkthame at googlemail.com
Thu Dec 15 21:27:05 CET 2011

On 15 Dec 2011, at 19:54, Peter Baker wrote:

> On 12/15/11 2:34 PM, Jonathan Kew wrote:
>> Not particularly relevant. The "full stop" or "period" that ends a sentence is semantically different from the "decimal point" that punctuates numbers. That doesn't mean we have separate character codes for them. From a character-encoding point of view, they're the same character; they just happen to have multiple uses.
>> JK
> Just now I'm holding a book printed London 1960: like most English books printed at the time it uses single curly quotes for quotations. But also like most older printed books (at least back to the eighteenth century), the *spacing* of quotation marks and apostrophes is quite different, the closing quotation mark having a much wider left sidebearing than the apostrophe when it follows an alphabetic character (there's less space when it follows a mark of punctuation).
> You don't often find this kind of spacing in contemporary books, but it's hard even to have the option to do this kind of old-fashioned typography when the apostophe and the closing quotation mark are the same glyph. We'd have to kern each instance manually.

>From a Unicode point of view, if you want to represent this distinction at a plain-text level, one option might be to insert a suitable space character (e.g. U+202F narrow no-break space) before the "closing-quote" instances of U+2019, but not before the "apostrophe" instances. That's no more difficult than it would be to insert a different character code for the two usages.

This reminds me of the French convention whereby a space is often inserted before punctuation such as :, ? or !. I've often felt that this should really be implemented as a language-specific variant of the punctuation glyph (or language-specific kerning) in OpenType fonts, but in practice I usually see it done by inserting a non-breaking space (or something similar) within the text.


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