Re: Should furigana be considered part of "plain text"?

From: Lars Marius Garshol (
Date: Mon Jul 03 2000 - 04:24:54 EDT

* Doug Ewell
| The problem with the phrase "plain text ceases to be plain if you
| decide that layout information needs to be encoded" is the word
| "layout." In the broadest sense, line and paragraph separation
| could be considered "layout," and nobody would suggest doing away
| with the plain-text characters needed to control those functions.

* John Hudson
| I think this is a fair comment, if one assumes so broad a sense of
| 'layout'. On the other hand, I wouldn't consider a paragraph break
| to be necessarily 'layout', since it is primarily a textual
| convention that can be represented in layout in a myriad of
| different ways: double spacing, indentation, pilcrows, etc..

Assuming that what is not plain text is layout is a mistake, in my
opinion. Paragraph separation is a matter of structure in
representation, while the blank lines, indentation, pilcrows and
whatnot are part of the layout that is the visual representation of
this structure.
| Personally, I think a truly plain text paragraph break would have no
| particular layout behaviour associated with it; rather, it would
| indicate a textual break that would be interpreted by applications
| according to user defined layout preferences.

Bingo. This is what SGML, XML and also HTML do, and also to some
extent LaTeX.

| That said, I realise that this might be an extremist view, and I
| certainly don't expect anybody to change anything now. Although I
| have to add, as someone who has typeset books, that having to remove
| all the double returns in a document before I can properly control
| the paragraph breaks is almost as annoying as replacing multiple
| tabs or word spaces when these have been used to force layout in
| 'plain text'. Thank goodness for macros.

Macros are one level of abstraction below proper generalized document
structure, as supported by SGML and XML. They help, but much less than
a properly designed SGML/XML application would.

--Lars M.

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