HTML entities

Jukka K. Korpela jukkakk at
Thu Mar 18 03:20:05 CDT 2021

Tex (textexin at wrote:

> However, you are quoting a doc that has been withdrawn.

It’s a pity that this well-written and useful document was withdrawn, for
reasons I don’t understand.

Yet, the statement I quoted is valid and relevant on its own. To take an
even more understandable example, the use of 10<sup>4</sup> versus 10⁴
means that when an HTML document is saved as plain text, or copied and
pasted to a plain text environment, or rendered in Braille or speech, the
expression denoting the number 10,000 suddenly becomes 104.

> If there are issues with how <sup> is implemented and renders, they should
> be fixed rather than adding what would be many stylized named entities,
> which would require the same code fixes.

The <sup> and <sub> elements have been in HTML well over 20 years, with no
progress in implementations. I can imagine some of the reasons to this.

But this is completely independent of the issue of named character
reference. It does not affect the rendering the least whether SUPERSCRIPT
FOUR appears in HTML source as such (as character data), as numeric
reference &#x2074;, or as named reference &sup4;. The only differences
between the latter two are that 1) the named reference is more mnemonic and
therefore easier to write and 2) an HTML user agent needs to have an entry
for it in its mapping table from names to numbers (so the implementation is
extremely trivial, and the question would be how fast it would be made and
how fast the installed browser base would be updated).

Personally, I don’t see a problem in writing &#x2074; (and &#x2075; etc.)
after I have learned to remember this. But the point is that when people
complain that &sup4; does not work, then the answer should not be “use
<sup>4</sup>”. It’s something very different, and there are ways to use
SUPERSCRIPT FOUR even in circumstances where you cannot type it directly or
as a named reference.

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