Why incomplete subscript/superscript alphabet ?

Garth Wallace gwalla at gmail.com
Mon Oct 3 13:41:51 CDT 2016

On Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 10:59 AM, Steve Swales <steve at swales.us> wrote:

> > On Oct 3, 2016, at 10:14 AM, Doug Ewell <doug at ewellic.org> wrote:
> >
> > a.lukyanov wrote:
> >
> >> I think that the right thing to do would be to create several new
> >> control/formatting characters, like this:
> >>
> >> "previous character is superscript"
> >> "previous character is subscript"
> >> "previous character is small caps (for use in phonetic transcription
> >> only)"
> >> "previous character is mathematical blackletter"
> >> etc
> >>
> >> Then people will be able to apply this features on any character as
> >> long as their font supports it.
> >
> > I happen to think this would be exactly the wrong thing to do,
> > completely contrary to the principles of plain text that Unicode was
> > founded upon. But you never know what might gain traction, so stay
> > tuned.
> I guess I don’t see how it is fundamentally different from other variant
> selector uses within Unicode, and the ability to write properly formatted
> mathematical and chemical formulas (for example) in a plain text
> environment like text messaging seems like a fairly compelling use case.

That would not be sufficient for properly formatted mathematical formulas.
Exponentiation alone requires an indefinite number of levels of
superscripting, and that's not even getting into things like summation,
integrals, and even the division bar, which require complex two-dimensional
positioning. I don't think chemical formulas need any characters that
aren't already encoded, though atomic symbols are properly formatted with
superscripted mass stacked on top of subscripted atomic number, and
stacking is sometimes used with polyatomic ions (but optional AIUI, so
something like Hg₂²⁺ is acceptable and understood). If you're referring to
full structural formulas, all bets are off: those are clearly 2-dimensional
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