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Re: Zero Width Space

From: Ingo Schwarze
Subject: Re: Zero Width Space
Date: Sun, 5 Jun 2022 14:31:10 +0200


Richard Morse wrote on Sun, Jun 05, 2022 at 07:46:16AM -0400:

> Do any of these spark an idea?
> - “processor instruction”
> - “parser instruction”
> - “special input sequence”

Those are too generic.  Practically all escape sequences, and practically
all roff requests in addition to them, can be understood as such.

> - “meta-character”
> - “meta-escape”

Those sound too mysterious, as if there were arcane magic going on,
whereas in reality, what \& does is quite simple.

> - “separation escape”

That seems misleading.  I do not recall ever using \& to separate
anything.  Quite to the contrary, it is usually prepended or appended
to something.

> - “no-op escape”

But this one, or a variation thereof, might perhaps sever the knot.
It avoids both the very misleading terminology "input break"
and the confusion with the Unicode "ZERO WIDTH SPACE", and it
very accurately describes what this escape sequence does: nothing.
It is usually not inserted for some effect it might have but
merely to prevent an adjacent punctuation character from being
the first character on an input line, the last character before
an input ASCII space or tab character, or the last character on
an input line.  Even when used to disable kerning (which i would
expect to be rare, in particular compared to the other use cases),
thinking along the lines of "let's have a no-op instead of kerning"
or "let's insert a no-op because there will be no kerning between
the adjacent characters and a no-op" would make sense to me.

I still think that "zero-width non-breaking space" would work, too,
because it's also accurate, avoids the very wrong words "input break",
and does not cause confusion in relation to Unicode.  But your
suggestion has the advantage of being shorter and easier to understand.


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