Italics get used to express important semantic meaning, so unicode should support them

Ken Whistler kenwhistler at
Mon Dec 21 13:42:54 CST 2020

On 12/21/2020 11:05 AM, abrahamgross--- via Unicode wrote:
> The only reason why things like_italics_  or*italics*  are around is because of the lack of real italics. I would go as far as to say that the very existence of*italics*  in plain text shows that theres a real need for italics when writing plain text.
> This is a workaround around a real problem of the lack of italics if I've ever seen one…

Actually, simple markup conventions like that mostly date from early 
days of email, when plain text (and usually just ASCII at that) were all 
you got. (By the way, the most usual interpretation of those is 
_underscore_, /italic/, and *bold*, but whatever.)

Nowadays, presto chango, most email clients support rich text (in HTML, 
usually), and you get to _underscore_, /italicize/, and *bold* your text 
correctly whenever you want to, and even change the font size to SHOUT, 
if you want.

Some folks here seem to be viewing the "problem" here the wrong way 
round. The issue isn't that plain text cannot preserve all the "meaning" 
conveyed in writing systems. When dealing with meaning conveyed with 
conventions that involve styling, font change, color and such, you 
simply depend on properly tiered text architecture and build support for 
that in rich text and markup. It is ass-backwards to try to continue to 
clot up plain text as the backbone of text interchange by trying to 
import all the complications of styling directly into it as if that 
representation were a plain text issue -- it isn't.

Instead the *real* problem here is that in some communication contexts 
that should be supporting rich text, implementations are still 
restricting people to plain text when what they really want is easily 
accessible and dependable rich text to convey more nuances accurately 
(or just to be more expressive). If Twitter is half-assed about 
supporting text styling, then direct your concerns in the proper 
direction. You don't fix Twitter's or texting apps' use of text by 
trying to force styling into the Unicode encoding of plain text.


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