Re: How to encode abbreviations [Was: Representative glyphs for combining kannada signs]

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Sat Apr 01 2006 - 02:36:43 CST

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    From: "Keutgen, Walter" <>
    > Such French numberings are only used for paragraph numbering and one would perhaps even find (very rarely) a°, b° etc. They would appear in running text only for the purpose of referencing a paragraph. The most current style in French Belgian handwriting and I believe in old typewriting was 1) 2) etc. With PC word processors, it is rather the preferred style of the program which is selected, 1. 2. etc. I believe law people like the 1°, 2° etc.
    > Can Philippe confirm which style(s) they prefer in France? And how would one read aloud 1°, 2° etc. in running text? I would bed 'primo', 'secundo', 'tertio' etc.

    Most French don't use extensively the terms "primo", "secundo", ... because they only know a few of them. They will perceive it as Italian, not French, or pedantic or used as a specialized "jargon" (for legists?).

    So they will read "1°", "2°", "3°"... more likely with the regular french adverbs "premièrement", "deuxièmement", ... that are much more widely known. At the begining of a numbered alineas, they will simply not pronounce it, and the superscript sign is just considered a typographic visual hint, like with 1) 2) 3) or 1. 2. 3. Jurists would read paragraphs starting by 1° 2° 3° as "alinéa un", "alinéa deux", ...

    > On the mechanical typewriter, there were only keys associated to glyphs (2 by key)
    > There was no 'zero' and no 'one'. To type 10 one used small L, capital O (lO) (rarely lo).
    > Was there a key with a glyph like °? I do not remember.
    > If yes, one would just have used the glyph ° for degree and Latin ordinal indicator as well.
    > If no, one would avoid using this paragraph numbering style, unless forced,
    > and for writing 'degree' one would turn the drum by one tooth.
    > Philippe wrote that on very old French typewriter there was a key for N° with the ° underscored.

    Not so old. I first learned to type on such mechanical Rockwell typewriter, that my grand-father had bought around 1953 (it was a very heavy model, made entirely of metal, and the top of keys were covered of dark nacre, with the glyphs engraved and filled with solid white ink). For this model, you really had to train your fingers to get the correct pressure and separate each letter with enough delay for the typing branch to get back to its base (otherwise the branchs would collide in the center of the typing system near the paper roll).

    But even later when my mother was working at home, she had bought in 1982 an electric Olivetti typewriter with a spheric type (that's the time my mother gave us the mechnical typewriter she had from her father). This one also had this "N°" (with underscored o) key.

    Later, around 1988, she bought a word-processing typewriter that could record andcorrect a line and that printed after return was pressed. This typewriter had the "N°" (with underscored o) key. And the first PCs started to beused more widely (but not for quality printing, because printers were too poor, or could not print forms or on special papers, and word-processing softwares were not easy and too limited... and PCs were still expensive compared to typewriters)

    Typewriters have been abandonned only after laser printers and laser copiers have been common.

    > On a picture of a French keyboard, there is ²°.

    Some PC french keyboards display a superscript n or superscript 3 above the superscript 2. Such variations are not so common today, but past keyboards for Olivetti PCs had such variations...

    > Regarding 'ditto' I would write this always in full.

    Actually "ditto" is not used in text. It's a isolated term (or a full sentence by itself), most commonly used in table cells where it appears in abbreviated form d°, because it is very distinctive from digits, and does not break the table layout, also because this abbreviation is much more explicit than a double quote symbol that is found as an alternative for it.

    It may happen in conversation, at the begining of a reply to someone else. In such occurence, it would not be written abbreviated, it would take a capital for the leading majuscule, and would be folllowed by a dot or exclamation point before the next sentence.

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