On 31 Dec 07, at 5:12, David Bolton wrote:
> Talking about differences in punctuation, and ignoring the
> transatlantic divide, is there a typographic difference between an
> acute accent, a prime, a foot, a second, and a phonetic high tone. To
> an indiscriminating eye they are all much the same.
> For a short while, I hoped that perhaps the acute was peardrop shaped,
> the high tone a straight diagonal, and a prime wedge shaped. But this
> does not seem
> to be so.
> I still think that a draper's diagonal, and possibly also a shilling
> mark, is wedge shaped, but of course, these are much bigger than
> acutes and primes. Except when they feature as inferiors or
I recently splurged and bought "The World's Writing Systems", edited
by Peter T Daniels and William Bright. [It's a toothsome book, btw.]
With few exceptions, the sample texts were generated from scaleable
fonts. This wouldn't be too remarkable except that the sheer variety
of character sets is overwhelming. Daniels remarks in the
introductory material that before digital fonts were developed, such
a book would have been impractical (impossible?) to print because (a)
some of the character sets weren't fontified in the Good Old Days and
(b) no one printer had all the necessary fonts.
But one thing I noticed is that the fine details of many characters
were hard to make out at the point size used, esp. the diacritics.
Even using my reading glasses with their special reading-distance
prescription and using a strong light, I couldn't make out some of
the details of diacritics unless I used a magnifying glass.
This wasn't consistently the case, but it happened often enough to
annoy me. The diacritics used in narrow phonetic transciptions were
If, as David Bolton seems to hope, the acute accent, the high tone
diacritic, and the prime were distinguished only by variations in
shape, it seems to me that the end result would be text that was very
hard to read!
<rummages around in braincase looking for a moral> <aha! got one>
The moral is that if you are setting text in a character set that
makes heavy use of diacritics, make sure that the diacritics are
clearly distinguishable. This may require sending a sample page to
the printer to find out what high-resolution rendering looks like at
the relevant point size.
It is particularly important to examine diacritics that are similar
to make sure they are clearly distinguishable. Otherwise, the aged
among the intended readers may have trouble.
Those of you unfamiliar with "The World's Writing Systems" are in for
a treat. The sheer variety of modified Roman and Cyrillic alphabets
alone is staggering.
I should add that this book would be a lot easier to create today,
given the widespread adoption of Unicode and the widespread
availability of typefaces for non-western writing systems.
"It's MY computer, Mr Gates. Stop trying to tell me what it will/won't do."