Re: Public Review Issue 232 Proposed Update UAX #9, Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm (Copy of email sent to the list; also posted by me to unicode feedback/public review issue-- but this has not yet posted there)

From: Stephan Stiller <>
Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2013 06:13:49 -0800

(First a correction: By the parentheses absorbing commas I really meant
that they /include/ them. The verb "absorb" was a poor word choice given
that I used it a bit differently elsewhere in that same email.)

> All of which may be ignored by people with mathematical or programming
> training! One of the advantages of the demise of copy-editors in
> scholarly publishing is that there's no longer anybody to interfere
> with one's logical punctuation.
Yeah! Some of them seem to believe in the wrong traditions, such as
inverting commas and periods that belong after closing quotation marks.
but then, whenever I try to convince people of the advantages of
{directional commas} or constituency indicators, I encounter lack of
appreciation ،if not funny looks,。

But there is a different type of copyediting that is useful.
Document-internal consistency (wrt spelling, citation formatting – too
many aspects to enumerate here) is something that authors that are not
semantically minded might not be good at, if they pay attention to it in
the first place. If the content is valuable, it's annoying to learn it
from a poorly copyedited/typeset book.

> But as in many cases where neither option seems quite right, there's a
> third option that's better than either. Had you marked the parenthesis
> with commas instead of parens, as would be usual in non-technical
> writing, there would be no problem.
Parentheses have a different feel (I was gonna write "semantics", but
it's also a pragmatics issue), but in this case the difference is small

A different reason is that I often find too many commas confusing; using
different symbols makes for easier parsing. (Overloading of symbols
leads to ambiguity; this needn't be literal ambiguity but can be
garden-path ambiguity. Perhaps that's why I prefer to have a variety of

> I wondered how familiar I was, and couldn't come up with an example!
> Do you have a real-life example? (In non-technical English rather than
> Englished mathematics.)
I think everyone has had the experience of enumerating items in some –
often meaningful – order and ending up with a list like "a, b, (c,) d,
and e". Let's see ... say we're enumerating the languages of a
geographical region in alphabetical order. Oh, wait, every country and
organization has different definitions of what's an {"official",
"co-official", "working", "recognized", "regional", "minority", etc}
language, and do we include recent immigrant languages with a home
traditionally considered to be elsewhere? A simpler example is if
someone asks me who's attending some party I'm organizing. Perhaps I
would like to list
     John, Bill, Mary, (me,) Rob, and Amy ,
just because that's what's naturally coming out of my mouth. I could
italicize "me" or rephrase or add an explanation. But the point is that
the punctuation symbols that are normally available for a certain
purpose and that I want to instinctively use in their usual meaning in a
particular place might be blocked only due to a de-facto orthographic

Received on Sun Feb 03 2013 - 08:15:51 CST

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