Issues with fonts and diacritical marks

In the last few days I have got into a bit of hot water on the H-BUDDHIST discussion list by making a hasty, ill-worded comment about diacritical marks. The reaction has forced me to write a more considered response to the list and it is on the basis of this that I now write a series of posts dealing with the wider topic of fonts and diacritical marks.

In earlier times (before the advent of modern Open Type fonts), diacritical marks were often detested by publishers for the difficulty of typesetting them correctly. Today, however, there may be a lingering suspicion among hidebound presses towards diacritical marks but I think that – in this wonderful, new world of digital fonts and Unicode standards – the majority of presses are not at all hostile to their use. However, there are issues with diacritical marks (as with fonts) that now we shall explore. These issues shall be explored in turn over the next 5 posts:

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2 Responses to Issues with fonts and diacritical marks

  1. Joseph Walser says:

    You make a number of statements about readability that need to be supported. Surely when you say that diacritics are “speed bumps,” and that technicalia slow the reader down, you are not merely refering to your own experience as a reader. I think the strong reaction you are getting from the Buddhism list comes not only from our frustrations as authors but also because your statements do not jive with our experience as readers. I am sure that there is an industry study somewhere that gives some statistics on reader reactions to these kinds of things. Perhaps if you gave us some hard evidence that our own experience of reading is in the minority we would cut you some slack. Until then, your observations seem rather impressionistic.

    -j

  2. Mike Crowley says:

    “…do not jive with…”
    I totally agree with your comment, Joseph, but the word is “jibe”.

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