6 Replies Latest reply on Feb 1, 2010 12:46 PM by brazooka

    Underlined masculine/feminine ordinal indicators

    brazooka Level 1

      Hi,

       

      I'm posting this here in the hope of bringing the following issue to the attention of the folks responsible for font development/design at Adobe (and perhaps other affiliated type foundries).

       

      Most fonts have feminine and masculine ordinal indicators: ª and º (accessed at Alt-166 and Alt-167 respectively). They are used in Spanish and Portuguese, and perhaps other languages. While these characters are also used in other functions, they are mostly used as gender-specific ordinal indicators (2nd = 2ª or 2º, 3rd = 3ª or 3º and so on).

       

      In Spanish and European Portuguese, AFAIK, these gender-specific ordinal indicators may or may not be underlined. In Brazilian Portuguese, they are supposed to be underlined.

       

      When the underlined ordinal indicator is missing, the alternative most people use is to use the lower case "a" or "o", then underline and superscritp it. (You cannot simply underline the ordinal indicator, as that would result in a superscript "a" with the underline way below.) Another method would be to substitute the ordinal's font with a font that does have underlined ordinals. Whatever the method, these are not only time consuming, but they can also result in trouble when you need to export and otherwise manipulate the text. And obviously, they simply don't look good if you care about good typography.

       

      While some Adobe fonts have them underlined (including Courier, Helvetica etc), most don't (Courier New, Times New Roman etc). Out of the fonts that came with InDesign CS3, only 5 typefaces have the underlined ordinals. Two of them are decorative (Brush Script Std and Giddyup Std) and three are monospaced (Letter Gothic Std, Orator Std and Prestige Elite Std). Of all 220 fonts I had installed with Adobe PageMaker 6.0, only ITC American Typewriter and ITC Cheltenham carry the underlined ordinal indicators.

       

      Here is my suggestion: please add the underlined ordinal indicators to your fonts as you update them, even if it's only as a glyph, to allow users to opt as to whether underline or not these gender-specific ordinal indicators. Any thoughts and further suggestions are appreciated.

       

      Thank you,

       

      CB

        • 1. Re: Underlined masculine/feminine ordinal indicators
          MiguelSousa Adobe Employee

          Thank you very much for your feedback.

           

          I'm Portuguese and have spent most of my life in Portugal, so I'm quite familiar with what you describe. In European Portuguese it's not a big problem if the ordinals are not underlined, as the correct typesetting rule is to precede them with a period, like so:  1.º . I was not aware that the underline was a requirement for Brazilian Portuguese.

           

          At Adobe the longstanding practice has been to underline the ordinals only in handwritten-style or monospaced fonts. As I understand it, the alphabetic superiors were historically underscored in handwriting or typewriter output, because in those contexts the form tended to be nearly full-sized (entirely full-sized in the case of a typewriter), and thus needed an underscore to make it more distinctly different from a normal letter that was just poorly aligned.

           

          I don't think it would be appropriate to underline the ordinals in all our fonts since that would affect all the other languages that prefer otherwise. But, in this age of OpenType, there's definitely room to accommodate for the particular preferences of each language.

           

          With that said, would it help if the fonts had underlined ordmasculine and ordfeminine alternate glyphs, which could then be accessed via the Glyph panel?

          • 2. Re: Underlined masculine/feminine ordinal indicators
            brazooka Level 1

            Prezado Miguel,

            Yes, it would definitely help to have the underlined ordmasculine/ordfeminine as alternate glyphs. The ideal would be for every font to offer both underlined and non-underlined alternatives, and your suggestion would address just that. Unicode numbers could be assigned specifically for each of these two alternate ordinals. These Unicode numbers could be used to offer the alternate, underlined, version, and the other way around, depending of each font's original configuration for the ordmasculine/ordfeminine.

            [Now if that is ever implemented, it raises another issue: that of creating export filters that could export text formatted in InDesign with an option to keep the alternate glyphs or change them back to the original letter/symbol. This issue involves many other such alternative glyphs (I think of reverting old-style "s" back to regular "s", for instance). The importance of having such filtering capability is that not all word processors are able to properly display all glyphs. But let's kill a lion at a time, as this issue would perhaps be better discussed in another topic.]

            Thank you, pá!

            CB

            ps: FYI, please see attached a list with some fonts that originally use underlined ordinals, not all of them display or monospaced.

            • 3. Re: Underlined masculine/feminine ordinal indicators
              MiguelSousa Adobe Employee

              Unicode numbers could be assigned specifically for each of these two alternate ordinals.

               

              That's not possible because there's only one Unicode codepoint available for ordmasculine (U+00BA) and ordfeminine (U+00AA). The Unicode standard makes no distinction between underlined and non-underlined ordinals.

               

               

              ps: FYI, please see attached a list with some fonts that originally use underlined ordinals, not all of them display or monospaced.

               

              Yes but not all of them are part of the Adobe font library, just the ones you marked with 'PM' and 'ID'.

              • 4. Re: Underlined masculine/feminine ordinal indicators
                brazooka Level 1

                Hi Miguel,

                That's not possible because there's only one Unicode codepoint available for ordmasculine (U+00BA) and ordfeminine (U+00AA). The Unicode standard makes no distinction between underlined and non-underlined ordinals.

                Please forgive my ignorance on these technical details... but then how would your suggestion (adding the alternate ordinals as glyphs) be implemented? I thought that each glyph had to have its own Unicode number. Do you mean to state that the glyphs for alternate ordmasculine and ordfeminine would be linked to the same Unicode as the original ordinals?

                Yes but not all of them are part of the Adobe font library, just the ones you marked with 'PM' and 'ID'.


                I justed posted that small list of fonts to remind you (and other readers of this thread) that not all font foundries use the non-underlined ordinals as standard. And by doing so I don't mean to imply or suggest that Adobe should change its standard, but only to reinforce the idea that having alternate ordinals would be beneficial to both users of fonts that underline these ordinal indicators and users of fonts that don't.

                • 5. Re: Underlined masculine/feminine ordinal indicators
                  MiguelSousa Adobe Employee

                  how would your suggestion (adding the alternate ordinals as glyphs) be implemented?

                   

                  The glyphs would be added to the font and be left unencoded, i.e. they wouldn't have Unicode values assigned to them. These alternate glyphs would then be accessed by applying an OpenType feature or via the Glyph panel.
                  By the way, this is how small caps, oldstyle figures and other alternate glyphs are implemented in our latest fonts.

                  • 6. Re: Underlined masculine/feminine ordinal indicators
                    brazooka Level 1
                    These alternate glyphs would then be accessed by applying an OpenType feature or via the Glyph panel.

                     

                    Sounds fair enough.

                     

                    That would be much better than the current method of subscripting an underlined lowercase "a" or "o".