Re: Fixed Width Spaces (was: Printing and Displaying DependentVowels)

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 05:55:49 EST

  • Next message: Peter Kirk: "Re: What is the principle?"

    From: "Séamas Ó Brógáin" <>
    > Peter Kirk wrote:
    > > But, as Ken has just clarified, with NBSP Louis' neck may be stretched
    > > rather uncomfortably, if not cut completely. Here is what I don't want
    > > to see (fixed width font required):
    > >
    > > Louis XVI was
    > > guillotined in
    > > 1793.
    > >
    > > Here is what I do want:
    > >
    > > Louis XVI was
    > > guillotined in
    > > 1793.
    > Well, I _am_ a typographer; and in my opinion Peter's first example
    > (allowing for the exaggerated spaces) is perfectly correct, and his
    > second example is not. The idea of using spaces of different width to
    > convey different meanings within a sentence is unprecedented and,
    > frankly, absurd.

    Don't exagerate here: an author may wish to emphasize a semantic with a visual
    grouping of some related words, but this is left as a author decision i.e. part
    of the style he wishes to apply.
    But you're wrong here, as you are judging from your knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon
    typographic tradition. There does exist some tradition of keeping the Roman
    number suffix attached to King names. Whever it is good or not this tradition
    exists in French typography...

    Buthere also this is a question of style, rather than a typographic rule. Styles
    change over time. A medieval text will not be typographed like a Renaissance one
    or a "modern" one.

    The case of small columns exists recently for newspapers (notably in free ads
    and diaries) that need to pack a lot of information on the same page but still
    have readable columns of text. In that case, spaces are better rendered by using
    equal treatment for all spaces and by adding extra inter-letter spacing
    (positive kerning) so that these columns will keep a good left and right
    justification needed to read correctly the packed columns. This usage will
    almost never apply traditional typographic styles (kept mostly in books that
    rarely use more than two columns on the same page), but a style that works best
    for such newspaper and diaries publications (with short lines of text rendered
    at about 57 signs per line), where a maximum of space must be kept for the
    insertion of paid advertizing, with flexible widths spanning 1, 2 or 3 columns
    (they are called "modules" in papers).

    Even in that case, the usage of non-breaking spaces is really not encouraged
    (unlike the use of thin spaces for composite punctuation signs which has a much
    stronger tradition, as they really help the readability of the rendered packed
    columns, by limiting their incorrect reading as letters, notably for exclamation
    point, colons, semi-colons and french guillemots). The key factor is to improve
    readability of small texts in narrow columns (if those texts were too difficult
    to read, the added value and vbenefit for readers of these ads would be lost and
    papers would not reach their intended audience, meaning that they could not sell
    these ads...

    Same problem for yellow pages and white pages, or for dictionnaries in compact
    format which must be kept usable and easily searchable by readers. Typographic
    rules and stylesheets are not there to be beautiful but to be useful for readers
    and to allow flexibility in the page layout and p^lacement for other payed
    advertizing. So when you look at such narrow ads, you'll commonly find texts

      Vds 4 chaises style Louis
      XV, restaurées, empaillage
      récent. Tel:
      01 02 03 04 05 ap. 20h.

    The only place where unbreakable spaces are used is for phone numbers and prices
    and they are generally rendered with thin spaces for grouping digits. But
    there's no restriction to avoid a line break between Louis and XV.

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