HTML entities

Jukka K. Korpela jukkakk at
Mon Mar 15 12:35:30 CDT 2021

Marius Spix via Unicode (unicode at wrote:

> ², ³ and ⁴ are for compatibility reasons in plaintext applications. If you
> are already using HTML, you should prefer to use <sup>2</sup>, <sup>3</sup>
> and <sup>4</sup>.

This is a different issue, about the use of superscript characters, not
about named entity references for them.

The document “Unicode in XML and other Markup Languages”
suggests the use of markup for superscripting in mathematical texts. but
then says:
“However, when super and sub-scripts are to reflect semantic distinctions,
it is easier to work with these meanings encoded in text rather than
markup, for example, in phonetic or phonemic transcription. Otherwise, they
would require markup in the middle of words, and  they may also be
inadvertently changed to normal style text, when exporting to plain text.”

On the practical side, using superscript digits almost always produces
better typographic quality than the use of markup like <sup>, which is
generally implemented in a simplistic manner (some vertical alignment and
reduced font size), often resulting in uneven line spacing unless you take
some precautions. This applies to text processing software, web browsers,
etc.; typesetting tools for mathematical texts are a different issue, and
the problem hardly arises there. – You can see this if you compare
<sup>2</sup> and &sup2; in any browser.

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