Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Smart Punctuation

My current source of frustration with Movable Type is that smart punctuation doesn’t Just Work. Daring Fireball recommends storing dumb punctuation in the database and using a Movable Type template module to educate it during the rendering process. Certainly this is better than writing the HTML entities by hand, but I think the database should store the truth. That’s the only way to ensure that the output is what the author intended, because every education algorithm gets a few cases wrong. Sure, most of these cases involve inch marks, nested quotations, or deliberate examples of incorrect punctuation, but it’s the principle! I shouldn’t have to think about how the text will be processed on the way out of the database, because that might change. Current solution: make a BBEdit stationery pad with smart quotes, soft wrapping, and the language set to HTML. Generate HTML using the Markup tools to make sure it uses dumb quotes. If I want dumb quotes for an inch mark, hold down Control. Use the Translate tool just before pasting into iCab. Flout Amdahl’s law.

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