French Superscript Abbreviations Fit Plain Text Requirements

Marcel Schneider charupdate at
Fri Dec 30 05:32:25 CST 2016

Iʼm sorry for the broken link, messed by redundant pasting.
Please disregard my previous e-mail.

On Thu, 29 Dec 2016 16:29:08 -0800, Asmus Freytag wrote:
> On 12/29/2016 1:20 PM, Marcel Schneider wrote:
> > 
> > this Unicode 
> > recommendation leads to content corruption when the related markup is stripped 
> > off. That may occur sooner than expected, e.g. in Word (2010) when a character 
> > style is applied. 
> The solution is to find better ways to apply character styles.
> For example, if a style definition is intended to ensure that something is in 
> italics (for emphasis), then changing all formatting for the text is overkill. 
> There may be very valid reasons to not remove super/subscript, font bindings 
> (other than switch from regular to italic version of a font) or even text color. 
> Finally, in changing text to an italic style, any words already in italics might be 
> toggled rather than blindly switched - that's what human typesetters tend to do.
> Looking at it this way, your beef is not with character encoding, but with 
> limitations (needlessly) imposed by software.

Right, that /has/ been my “beef” at a time… Hence my reminiscence :) 
Now Iʼd better not have cited this one. Itʼs not where Iʼd like to come. 
Iʼm pretty sure this is the way things do work in Publisher. I see that 
superscripting is stable in LibreOffice (2014), and I guess it is 
in actual vesions of Word. 

The official concern here in France (not solely my personal one) is that while 
it would be handy to have the most current ordinal indicator in French (^e) 
right on the (on-coming standard) keyboard (layout), this character is considered 
not to have been encoded yet. Hence a reserved allocation, in expectation of 
future encoding. 

According to the relevant page of the French Academy [1], four letters are used 
in French ordinal abbreviations: d, e, r, s. This is detailed on a private 
website dedicated to French abbreviations [2]. The out-of-the-box solution is 
to use the already existing Unicode modifier letters ᵈ, ᵉ, ʳ, ˢ, but this has 
a downside on display level: The only fonts I know where it has the habitual look 
are Consolas (modifier letters resembling to legacy ordinal indicators without the 
underline) and Lucida Console (modfier letters resembling to formatted superscipt). 
Already in Lucida Sans Unicode, modifier letters are less raised than ordinal 
indicators and formatted superscript.

My personal opinion is that these differences in display are not worth considering. 
If there is a demand for plain text ordinal indicators in French, the Unicode 
modifier letters should be used in this context. They are ready to use, and much 
more important issues are out there. Anyway, the current practice (using rich text) 
remains recommended by Unicode. (But for the—out of topic—representation of 
numeral system bases, Unicode subscript digits still seem to me a better way.)

These issues seem _relatively_ important to me, as they affect the French keyboard 
standard that is now being engineered, for public enquiry and publication in 2017.


[1] Abréviations des adjectifs numéraux [‘Abbreviations of ordinals’]:

[2] Abréviations des adjectifs numéraux ordinaux:

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