Re: Vindication in syndication (sharp s)

From: Markus Kuhn (
Date: Tue Nov 24 1998 - 07:57:00 EST

Michael Everson wrote on 1998-11-24 09:32 UTC:
> I received the following on TYPO-L:
> But it also included the most shocking and horrifying thing I've seen
> on _The X-Files_ in six years: an eszett in an all-caps setting.

The full text probably was "DIE WAHRHEIT IST IRGENDWO DA DRAUßEN".

Writing text in all caps is a completely alien concept to traditional
German typography. I think it is mostly a U.S. habit (and a bad one I'd
like to add), especially cultivated by corporate lawyers on package
labeling that tells you apparently important things like DO NOT PUT LIVE

If Germans want to emphasise some text, they use bold or italics,
underline it, use red color or a larger font, but practically *never*
set it in all capital letters. As someone grown up in Germany, I find
all-caps text more difficult to read than the normal spelling. I would
never emphasise text by capitalizing it, as this de-facto obscures the
text for most German readers. Since the ß can never appear at the
beginning of a word, there is de-facto no need for a capitalized version
of this letter. Just do not write German words in all caps, it is not
good German typography.

I know of only one exception: International standards require the use of
capital letters in passports, and since in this application the accurate
representation of the name is of paramount importance and the
information loss caused by transliterating ß into ss is not acceptable,
you see words like BAHNHOFSTRAßE printed in these documents.

Die Wahrheit ist irgendwo da draußen:

It is one of the false myths going around in the i18n community that it
is appropriate to replace ß by SS when capitalizing German words. This
is non-sense. The appropriate thing to do is to not capitalize German
words. Both STRAßE and STRASSE are equally ugly and intolerable, and the
latter way of writing it would even change the pronunciation to a
short "a", so STRAßE -- if it really has to be all-caps -- is probably
even the somewhat less ugly alternative.


(feel free to forward this reply back to TYPO-L)

Markus G. Kuhn, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK
Email: mkuhn at,  WWW: <>

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