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Re: [groff] man7/ Was Make editorial changes.

From: G. Branden Robinson
Subject: Re: [groff] man7/ Was Make editorial changes.
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 2019 22:46:43 +1000
User-agent: NeoMutt/20180716

At 2019-07-01T15:02:35-0400, Doug McIlroy wrote:
> I agree with Ingo about proposed descriptions of \& and sentence
> spaces. Elaboration is not explanation.

The context of the elaboration under discussion is portability and style
advice in the groff_man(7) page.  On my to-do list, and as copiously
commented within that very file, is the production of a
groff_man_style(7) or groff_man_tutorial(7) page to which much of this
prescriptive information can be moved.

> \& is simply a zero-length character. Its primary use is to disguise
> sequences that groff would otherwise unwantedly interpret. For
> example, "\&." at the beginning of an input line will be taken as
> text, not a groff request. Given the general case, further examples
> are unnecessary.

Yes--in the same sense that Strunk & White's _Elements of Style_ is
unnecessary.  Every principle within it can be deduced from experience
with a modest corpus of English sample literature.

> "Sentence space" is a fraught convention, mentioned in groff(7) but
> not defined. It is not revealed that "sentence space" is extra
> [space], not the whole space between sentences.

I did not know this!  Thank you.

> Nor is the default sentence space stated. A first cut at a general
> definition might be:
>       Extra "sentence space", by default one space character, is
>       inserted after sentences, which are identified by artificial
>       intelligence. False identifications may be mitigated by
>       judicious use of \&.

I don't think this is even a bug; it's simply long-standing
typopgraphical practice that is considered good for readability,
especially when using monospaced fonts.

> A personal false-identification hazard: in the court of groff I will
> be declared innocent if I call myself M. Douglas McIlroy, but will be
> sentenced if I call myself Mr. Douglas McIlroy.

I don't see the distinction you do?

$ cat sentence-space.roff && echo --- && nroff sentence-space.roff
.pl 3v
.ss 12u 60u
M. Douglas McIlroy, meet G. Branden Robinson.
Mr. Branden Robinson, meet Mr. Douglas McIlroy.
May the \f[I]groff\f[] be with you.
M. Douglas McIlroy, meet G. Branden Robinson.      Mr. Branden
Robinson, meet Mr. Douglas McIlroy.      May the groff be with

> Again speaking personally, this discussion has made me aware of the
> second argument of .ss. I expect from now on to cut the Gordian
> knot by using .ss 12 0, at least in nroff.

I'll just be reaching for some smelling salts now. ;-)

This doesn't seem crazy in the Times family; but that's troff territory,
so I guess our preferences are at opposite poles...

> Incidentally, groff(7) defines \n[.ss] enigmatically thus: "The value
> of the parameters [sic] set by the first argument of the ss request",
> and defines \n[.sss] similarly. A more informative definition would be,
> "The value N set by .ss N M". This rules out other plausible values,
> e.g. \w' '*N/12.

Yes, this could certainly use some improvement.  Thanks for pointing
this out.


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