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RE: [Groff] smart quotes

From: Steve Izma
Subject: RE: [Groff] smart quotes
Date: Tue, 06 Feb 2001 11:38:34 -0600

> It's been considered, and rejected.  The aim of the macro set
> is to allow writers to write ASCII files that are clear and
> easily deciphered (visually) according to the standards of
> normal English practice.  Groff must be able to do it's job
> with minimal presence.

>     @I love you,& he said.  @Will you marry me?&

> just isn't as readable as

>    "I love you," he said.  "Will you marry me?"

> and

>    ``I love you,'' he said.  ``Will you marry me?''

> while legible, looks clunky, and has another drawback.  Editors,
> publishers, and agents want manuscripts in "typewriter"
> style, i.e. double spaced Courier (or equivalent), italics
> underlined, etc.  Part of the macro set I'm writing is
> designed to make production of typewriter-style docs easy,
> while affording the flexibility to output the same docs in
> beautifully typeset format.  ``...'' looks terrible in Courier.
> Hence the need for "smart quotes."

> I can't believe I'm the first person who's ever wanted/needed
> smart quotes in groff.

I think the conclusion that `` and '' look clunky is highly
subjective. I use " in e-mail because I expect people to read the
e-mail on the screen and the double-quote character is sufficient for
readability. But I've been using `` and '' for as long as I can
remember using troff (as well as ` and ' for single quotes, which
are rarely needed in Canadian and U.S. texts), and it guarantees the
correct results and makes proofreading much easier. I don't see how
these quote marks look any clunkier than the Courier font (or any other
fixed-spaced font) itself. In fact I'd say that if it serves a good
purpose, it's worth getting used to.

Also, in my thirty years of experience as a typographer, these
quote marks have always been the proper ones to type. For a
writer, it seems to me that speed of typing allows for a clearer
flow between thoughts and paper; you can't get much faster than
typing `` or ''; for some people it might even be faster than "
because it requires the shift key. This is certainly faster than
a word processor that requires a special sequence of keys, and I
certainly appreciate the way in which groff and text editors like
vi work together in making quotation marks easy to get.

My work in publishing makes it clear to me that publishers want a
ledgible manuscript to read and the only consistent requirements
are that it be double-spaced (for ease of copy-editing), a single
column per page, and with a reasonable line length and point size 
such that the eye doesn't get lost moving from the right column to
the beginning of the next line. Italic is preferable to
underlining and smart quotes are definitely a bonus. Manuscripts
received with a Courier font are becoming very rare. So I would
be careful about how much effort you put into "typewriter-style

        -- Steve

Steve Izma,                               (519) 884-0710 ext. 6125
    Wilfrid Laurier University Press      FAX: (519) 725-1399
    Waterloo, Ont., Canada N2L 3C5        address@hidden

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