Why incomplete subscript/superscript alphabet ?

Leonardo Boiko leoboiko at gmail.com
Fri Sep 30 11:11:19 CDT 2016

The Unicode codepoints are not intended as a place to store typographically
variant glyphs (much like the Unicode "italic" characters aren't designed
as a way of encoding italic faces). The correct thing here is that the
markup and the font-rendering systems *should* automatically work together
to choose the proper face—as they already do with italics or optical sizes,
and as they should do with true small-caps etc.

I agree that our current systems are typographically atrocious and an
abomination before the God of good taste, and I don't blame anyone for
resorting to Unicode tricks to work around that. But that's a crummy
stopgap at best, and legitimizing it would be counterproductive in the long
run—not to mention ethnocentric (unless you want Unicode sub- and
superscript codepoints for every single existing character ever, including
the full Han set).

Rather, let's bug the authors of font rendering systems, user interface
libraries, text editors, web browsers etc. for halfway decent typography.

2016/09/30 12:56 "Jukka K. Korpela" <jkorpela at cs.tut.fi>:

> 30.9.2016, 18:19, Philippe Verdy wrote:
> Note also that many tools generating documentation from source code
>> allow you to insert HTML comments, so you could as well use <sub></sub>,
> Yes, but there’s a serious typographic pitfall with this, as well as with
> using e.g. subscript or superscript formatting in a word processor. The
> problem is that the rendering is almost always simplistic: letters (or
> other characters) of the current font are used in reduced size and in
> lowered or raised position. The result is that the glyphs have reduced
> stroke width too, and the position change very often causes line spacing to
> be uneven.
> The typographically correct implementation of such formatting or markup
> would use subscript or superscript glyphs from the font, designed by the
> font creator to match the style of the font. This is more difficult than
> the simplistic approach, and of course it is possible only when using a
> font that contains such glyphs.
> Using HTML, for example, the way to achieve that at present would be to
> use markup like <span class="sub">...</span> (to avoid the problems caused
> by the default formatting of <sub> and <sup>) and to use a CSS style sheet
> that sets font-family suitably and uses OpenType font feature settings to
> select subscript or superscript glyphs. In practice, you would need to use
> @font-face to embed a suitable OpenType font. So it’s doable, but not
> trivial like just slapping <sub> and </sub> around some text.
> A practical conclusion is that if you need only e.g. 2 and 3 as
> superscripts (a rather general situation in general texts, where you just
> need m² or m³), it is much simpler to use the relevant Unicode superscript
> characters (instead of e.g. m<sup>2</sup>). This means using
> typographer-designer superscript glyphs in a simple and reliable way.
> Yucca
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