Another take on the English Apostrophe in Unicode

Marcel Schneider charupdate at
Sat Jun 13 09:21:14 CDT 2015

On Sun, Jul 18, 1999, Markus Kuhn  wrote:


> I addition, I feel that the current ISO 8859 oriented national keyboard
> standards are not adequate for modern Unicode-era word processing
> practices, as they put obsolete typewriter characters such as U+0027 on
> too prominent keys, while they have no key positions for the extremely
> frequently needed typesetting characters that are for instance supported
> by CP1252 (directional single and double quotes, en and em dashes,
> etc.). Software either has to use shaky algorithms to make educated
> guesses on which character the user might have meant (such as Word tries
> to do), or sequences of ASCII characters are interpreted with new
> semantics (such as both TeX and Word do), in order to give typists some
> compromise access to these characters.
> I think it is urgent time to revise national keyboard standards here. We
> really need standardized ways to easily enter say at least
> 2013 EN DASH
> 2014 EM DASH
> on keyboards for English language users, and corresponding extensions on
> other national keyboard standards. This might be a good opportunity to
> introduce on US keyboards the Level 2 Select key (AltGr), while on
> European keyboards is is probably sufficient to just add appropriate
> labels to a number of new Level 2 Select positions.


On Sun, Jul 18, 1999, Mark Davis  wrote:


> However, I agree that having the curly quotes (single and double) on the
> standard keyboard would be handy. I switch back and forth between a Mac and
> Windows. On the Mac, the option key (a second level shift) has always made
> this easy. The installable Windows international keyboard is not nearly so
> useful, since you can't just leave it on all the time (it messes up your 
> used of quotation marks).

On Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 2:38 PM, Markus Scherer  wrote:

> How are normal users supposed to 
> find both U+2019 and U+02BC on their keyboards, 


Yes this may be the main issue, how to get at hand U+20BC, U+2019 and U+2018 as well, plus the actual U+0027, on keyboards that are derived from typewriters’ ones. Word processors are overasked with management of all four, while many users whish to stay typing ‘apostrophe’ for all of them. And not to change for another keyboard driver(?).

A free tool, the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, allows every user to add U+02BC on his preferred keyboard layout, for example in the deadlist of apostrophe on the US International keyboard, a layout where U+2019 is already found, along with U+2018. You may choose a double stroke on Apostrophe to generate the modifier letter. But as this layout obviously is not so useful, you’ll prefer to get them on the US Standard layout, or depending on where you live, on the UK standard or extended or any other layout.

A more achieved solution is obtained with the Windows Driver Kit, a free development kit which allows to implement a Kana toggle, to toggle Apostrophe on the US Standard keyboard between U+0027 and U+02BC *or* U+2019. The least used among all three will be put into the deadlist, when adding one dead key on this layout, say Grave. Then, [Grave] [Apostrophe] will result in the missing apostrophe character.

> how are they supposed to deal with incorrect usage?

If the document is already incorrect, there will be nothing to do IMHO than check them one by one. Theoretically, word processors could integrate an exhaustive checking algorithm with an exhaustive dictionary. Which such a tool, there would be no “Apostrophe Catastrophe” as it has been called: 


> (found by a search engine).

So, on actual keyboard layouts, avoiding the Apostrophe Catastrophe 
would then have been unfeasible—the like as with actual consumption 
habits, avoiding a number of other catastrophes is unfeasible as well...

Nevertheless, this morning I opened once more the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator. Ten minutes later I got the finished complete package of the US American keyboard layout with U+02BC MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE and all English quotation marks in one dead key on ‘Grave’, that is key number E00 (ISO/IEC 9995-1). The same way I made up the keyboard layout for the United Kingdom, which uses AltGr, so the apostrophe and all quotes are also on AltGr. Ten minutes, again. 

If you don’t use the grave accent (or AltGr), there is strictly no change on these keyboard layouts, because I loaded the original Windows US and UK layouts into the MSKLC. If you use the grave accent, you must type a whitespace after hitting the grave key to get the grave accent (in conformance to the standard behavior of dead keys). 
– To get the modifier letter apostrophe, type ‘grave’ - ‘apostrophe’.
– To get the first level quotation marks (UK: single quotes; US: double quotes), type ‘grave’ followed by a square bracket, opening or closing (left or right).
– To get the nested quotation marks (UK: double quotes; US: single quotes), type ‘grave’ followed by whether ‘9’ or ‘0’, that is, the key where you have the opening or closing parenthesis.

For United Kingdom only:
Additionally to the above, you may type also the following:
– To get the modifier letter apostrophe, type AltGr + ‘apostrophe’.
– To get the single quotation marks, type AltGr + a square bracket, opening or closing (left or right).
– To get the double quotation marks, type AltGr + ‘9’ or AltGr + ‘0’.

These MSKLC-generated keyboard drivers can be used on 

> all Windows versions (from NT 4.0 upwards) and 

> all system architectures (32 bit and 64 bit).

In the documentation of the MSKLC, Microsoft writes:
“On Vista [and later], the keyboard layout will automatically be added to the language bar on install and removed on uninstall.” 

> You may define a shortcut to switch, add a nice icon in the language bar / Task bar, or set it as default.

They are named ‘kbdenukw’ and ‘kbdenusw’. ‘w’ stands for ‘Wholesome’.

This is completely free and unlicensed software.

It can be downloaded from now on at the following short URLs:

However, this being the 1.0 version, and the goal was to be fast, I forgot the En and Em dashes, and that I would add U+00B1, U+2260, U+00A0... If there will be a number of downloads, a 2.0 version could follow and be announced here.

To get the MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE ready on the apostrophe key like today the close-quote as smart apostrophe, you must disable the smart quotes in your word processor, and then add an autocorrect to convert U+0027 to U+02BC. If your word processor allows you to set apart the smart single and double quotes, you may enable the double quotes.

I hope that helps.


Marcel Schneider
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Unicode mailing list