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Submitting Successful Character and Script Proposals

Q: How do I write a successful proposal for some overlooked characters or for an entire script?

A: Before investing time in writing a proposal, you should first verify that the character or script is eligible and hasn't already been proposed or rejected.

Q: How do I verify that a character or script is eligible for encoding?

A: Often a proposed character can be expressed as a sequence of one or more existing Unicode characters. Encoding the proposed character would be a duplicate representation, and is thus not suitable for encoding. (In any event, the proposed character would disappear when normalized.) For example, a g-umlaut character is not suitable for encoding, because it can already be expressed with the sequence <g, combining diaeresis>. For further information on such sequences see Where is my Character and the FAQ page Characters, Combining Marks question 12 and question 13.

Q: How do I know if a character has already been proposed or rejected?

A: Before proceeding, determine that each proposed addition is a character according to the definition given in the Unicode Standard and that the proposed addition does not already exist in the Standard.  Consult the Proposed New Characters (Pipeline Table) page and the links on the About the Pipeline Table page to see if the character is already on track to be encoded, is under investigation, or has been rejected.

Q: I've looked at those pages, but I can't tell whether my character has been proposed. What do I do?

A: If the character or script is not listed, ask on the Unicode email list  or send in a query to the Unicode Consortium using the online contact form.

Q: After I verify that my character(s) or script is eligible, what do I do next?

A: The process is similar for both characters and scripts. You will need to write and submit a proposal for the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC)  to review. If you have never submitted a proposal before, you may use our online contact form to inquire, and we will send you instructions for submitting your proposal via e-mail, or make arrangements to retrieve your document on the web.

The page on Submitting New Characters or Scripts also has information about the formal process that may be required later in the consideration of a proposal.

Q: That page on Submitting New Characters or Scripts mentions a summary proposal form. What is that and do I need to fill it out now?

Successful UTC proposals eventually need to be considered by the ISO character encoding committee, SC2/WG2, which requires a summary proposal form. However, the form is not actually required by the UTC to start considering a character encoding proposal, so you do not need to fill out that form at this point.

Q: What happens once I submit my proposal to the UTC?

A: Your proposal will receive an initial review, and you may be asked to revise it. Your proposal will be assigned a document number, and scheduled for consideration at an upcoming UTC meeting. These occur quarterly. A UTC member will contact you with feedback after the discussion if you are not there in person.

Q: What format should I use for my document?

A: A UTC document requires a simple header that gives a title, name of the submitter and the date in any style. Each page must have a footer or header that includes some identifying mark (such as author) and the page number.

Q: What do I need to include in my document?

A: A document requires supporting evidence, which is best incorporated into the document rather than as links. For new characters, provide images clearly showing the characters in use, with their glyph circled or clearly identified, along with a caption that describes the character and the source of the image. Most importantly your document needs to contain a clear proposal, with your specific suggestions such as, add this character with this glyph, this name and these properties to this block (you can leave code position open).

Q: Are there some examples of successful proposals I could look at?

A: Yes, for a successful proposal to encode a complex script, you might look at the Balinese script proposal. For an example of a proposal adding characters to an existing script, see Four Sindhi characters for Devanagari. There's also a discussion paper and related full proposal for Indic Number forms at http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n3334.pdf and http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n3312.pdf.

Other resources where you could find additional examples include a range of proposals in the WG2 documents and a long list of good proposals on the Evertype site.

Q: How should I organize the information in my proposal so that the committee can evaluate it easily?

A: A format where the proposal comes first, and the rationale second, works best. Character proposals should provide a brief historical background on the character(s), a character code chart (if there are many characters being proposed), a list of properties, and a bibliography. If the proposal is requesting the addition of a number of characters to an existing encoded script, it is helpful to provide a proposed code chart showing both the existing characters and the requested characters, so they can be seen and evaluated together in context.

Q: Would a summary help my proposal?

A: Yes, a one-paragraph summary at the top can help the reader understand what the whole document is about, and will help the committee members (who are not familiar with all aspects of your issue) to put things into context.

Q: What else is involved besides submitting my proposal?

A: You will need to be actively involved in following up for your proposal to succeed. Ideally, this means that you need to be available to attend the UTC meeting or meetings when your proposal is discussed.

Q: What if I can't come to the meetings in person?

A: If it is not possible to attend in person, you can generally arrange to schedule a phone conference for the relevant part of the meeting. For complex or controversial proposals, it is extremely helpful to find someone attending the UTC to champion your cause and help explain and move it along. Some complex proposals can require many meetings before they are accepted, and active involvement is required for their success. Of course, straightforward proposals also benefit from a champion in the UTC.

Q: What if I don't need a new character, but want to change something else in the standard?

A: There are some limits on possible changes to the standard, so make sure that you first read the Unicode Character Encoding Stability Policy. Assuming your requested change is not prohibited, provide a document with a clear proposal and supporting evidence. It should contain specific suggestions, such as change the value of this property for this character from X to Y or change this text in the standard on a particular page or in a particular UAX to some other specified text.

Q: What if I don't have a solution to the problem?

A: If you have found a problem, but are not yet able to propose a solution, you might find it helpful to first discuss the issue on the Unicode mailing list to solicit ideas, so that your proposal can offer a solution. Pointing out a range of possible solutions can sometimes be very useful. It is best if these are presented as concrete alternatives, each fully spelled out. Sometimes it is also appropriate to submit commentary documents and problem statements.

Q&A contributed by [JDA] & [AF]


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