Proper placement of exclamdown and questiondown

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Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> are aware of deviations and consistencies in the overall matrix.

Not really.

hhp

Eben Sorkin's picture
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Nick, thanks for expanding the Small Caps issue. You are right - it's more complicated.

Karsten said it shows that the positioning was chosen intentionally I feel slightly uneasy cleanly extrapolating from handmade comic lettering to text or even to display in type. That said, I think there is plenty to learn from handmade comic lettering, not least in this case. So I agree - mostly.

Miguel, thanks for checking in!

The thing that strikes me most about 1-5 is that it looks to my eye like it would be possible to design agreeable versions of both Cap aligned & x aligned question & exam marks. If I have time I will try to show what I mean.

The exclams’ spacing too should be contextual Of course I think it should all be contextual.... but that's a side issue.

Even though this thread has been interesting, I don't think my mind has been changed - just shifted. It seems valid to me to do either thing, but in general and for text especially I will favor Richard & Miguel's preference. As far as Nicks CAP examples. I think 3,4& 5 all look okay to me. 1 & 2 do not. But As I said, I think that's a function of the design of the faces used nearly as much as it is a function of what tends to look/feel best.

The ¡YO NO FUI! example is nice because It's a great example of where a Modern sensibility seems to be better served or at least is more consistent with the H align model.

Nick Shinn's picture
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are aware of deviations and consistencies in the overall matrix.
Not really.

I've occasionally had the experience where the first first thing I notice about a page of type--the instant I look at it--is a typo. (or an f-i that isn't ligatured, or a straight quote mark). I wonder if other people have had the same experience.

How would you explain that?

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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You're a type freak, not a target user.

I myself "notice" that lc "a"s are "backwards". But I do nothing about it.

hhp

Ricardo Cordoba's picture
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The ¡YO NO FUI! example is nice because It’s a great example of where a Modern sensibility seems to be better served or at least is more consistent with the H align model.

Wanna hear something funny? Yesterday I was examining that book more closely, and on the spine the title is set in a different typeface, with a lowered exclamdown character! Talk about inconsistencies. :-)

I'll try to post a scan of it later.

Also, I am going to e-mail some colleagues in Argentina (two of them typography profs at the University of Buenos Aires), to see what they have to say about some of the questions that have come up in this thread.

Nick Shinn's picture
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You’re a type freak, not a target user.

Sure, spotting typos is learned, but so are such simple activities as picking berries or lice eggs.

Not every text is as simple as a book page. Legal and government documents with their hierarchy of numbered paragraphs and sub-sections (and the Bible) are texts where page-context is important in reading. I'm guessing that not all saccadic scans follow the bouncing ball, and a brief internet search of scientific literature reveals that the "foraging" nature of saccadic eye movements has been documented.

The presence of an opening question/exclamation mark in some languages and not others suggests the complexity of the issue. How is it that English readers are able to start reading a long question with the final mark well in the distance? Are there sufficient grammatical cues in the opening words, or do we "catch" the question mark in "the corner of the eye" in a foraging saccade?

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> not all saccadic scans follow the bouncing ball

But the ones that don't are not immersive.

On the other hand I'm certainly not saying all
opening exclamation/question schemes need
to cater to immersive reading. Just that the
distinction has to be made.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture
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But the ones that don’t are not immersive.

Is immersion therefore primarily interpretive?
I'm imagining a concept rather like a "magnetic" Flash interaction, where the reader attempts to direct a concentrated flow of saccadic movements towards the next word, but foraging saccades are always bouncing off all over the place retrieving information that's mostly irrelevant, but nonetheless has to be processed in the feedback loop.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> Is immersion therefore primarily interpretive?

I'm not sure what you mean.
What I'm getting at is that during immersion we don't care much
about consistency of alignment and other such conscious frills.

> foraging saccades

Errant saccades break immersion.

A good example here is when you start to read a question but only realize it's a question when you see the mark at the end, often resulting in a regression just to revisit what's been previously read. This is in fact why opening question marks are so useful. I wouldn't mind seeing them ported over to English! Or even better, do what Armenian does: allow question marks directly on the vowel(s) in question, so to speak. :-)

On the other hand, a reader can -and does- go in and out of immersion,
so there certainly can/should not be such a thing as a "pure" text face.

hhp

Carl Crossgrove's picture
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"How is it that English readers are able to start reading a long question with the final mark well in the distance?"

Look at your own sentence. Spanish structure is less explicit and benefits from leading punctuation. English tends to put big honking clues at the beginning of sentences that are questions. Generally in English you invert the order of the statement and that signals a question. Spanish, not as much.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> English tends to put big honking clues at
> the beginning of sentences that are questions.

Tends to.

And then there's bad English, which we still have to read and absorb!
"I asked Maria you wanted tuna or turkey sandwich?"

hhp

Ricardo Cordoba's picture
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Generally in English you invert the order of the statement and that signals a question. Spanish, not as much.

Absolutely:

Maria started to write. = María empezó a escribir.

Did Maria start to write? = ¿María empezó a escribir?

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Spanglish: Maria started to write? ¡¿Why she do that?!

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture
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You think that's funny?

**

Perhaps it's sort of an institutionalized elision.
I don't know Spanish, but in French many questions begin with "Est-ce que..." --Is it (true) that...
And in English: (Do) you think that's funny?

paul d hunt's picture
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it's interesting that

1) Do you think that's funny?
and
2) You think that's funny?

have different implications. the first asking WHETHER you think it is funny, and the second asking whether YOU think that is funny.

Eben Sorkin's picture
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I expect someone with a more profound education may be able to tie this up in knots but I'll put it out there just the same - I might learn something.

I was thinking about what Hrant said about putting the ? mark at the beginning of a sentence in English. I think that while it's obvious it isn't likely to happen any time soon - it's an interesting question anyway. But I don't agree with his idea that it would be a good plan. Discovering that a sentence is a question, or guessing based on the structure is a deep part of English. It seems like an essential aspect of the language to me.

English is really flexible, and keeps changing so 'why object?' you might ask. But the flexibility is mostly in vocabulary I think. Which is why English has an unusual number of words. The grammar sticks around. No? And Unlike using <<>> (or >><<) vs "" ; the use of ¿ at the beginning of a sentence changes the 'way' it means what it means by changing the process you use to get there.

I would be interested what readers of Spanish think of this idea. Does it feel different to find a question in English Vs. Spanish?

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> it isn’t likely to happen any time soon

I just did it yesterday.
Personally I'm not interested in "official standards"*, I'm interested in
instances. You think it's a good idea, you do it. The rest is history, or not.

* Because since we're not living under a monarchy I don't expect
quick, effective improvements to something as common as language.

> It seems like an essential aspect of the language to me.

Nah, it's just a limitation of the writing system, and one of the easiest to fix.

hhp

Ricardo Cordoba's picture
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I would be interested what readers of Spanish think of this idea. Does it feel different to find a question in English Vs. Spanish?

¿Would it feel weird to me to see an opening question mark in an English sentence? ¡Yep, it sure would! ;-)

Just as weird as coming upon written Spanish questions or exclamations that are missing these opening characters... (Full disclosure: I grew up bilingual.) But I see this a lot in e-mails and on websites -- not every Spanish-speaking person bothers to place all of the accents on the vowels that need them, for that matter, or to even draw the tilde on top of the ñ, even when they know that año does not mean the same as ano... ;-) I've seen examples of people deliberately spelling año as anio, because they don't know the keyboard shortcut for the ñ (whether on Mac or on Windows).

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> I’ve seen examples of people deliberately spelling año as anio

Well, it does save the city money. :-/

hhp

Ricardo Cordoba's picture
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Anyways, I still think Mr. Crossgrove has said it best so far: Spanish structure is less explicit and benefits from leading punctuation. English tends to put big honking clues at the beginning of sentences that are questions. Generally in English you invert the order of the statement and that signals a question.

So for English, it doesn't really seem like a limitation of the writing system if said writing system doesn't need it. If English sentence structure needed something like opening question marks and exclamation points in writing, then they would have been invented at some point, ¿no? :-)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> if said writing system doesn’t need it.

It needs it less. But it still needs it.

> If English sentence structure needed something like opening
> question marks and exclamation points in writing, then they
> would have been invented at some point, ¿no?

No.
The establishment, in any given field, is always fighting change,
even if the benefit to most people is clear. Because people tend to
care about themselves, about their own comfort, more than the
development/integrity of what are essentially abstractions.

hhp

Ricardo Cordoba's picture
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Similar online discussion... ¡aquí! Also, a Wikipedia article on the inverted question mark. Plus... an article at The Straight Dope talks about the origins of the question mark.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture
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LOL! Hrant, that picture of the Alta Canyada sign is great!

Ricardo Cordoba's picture
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...but that y looks thicker than the rest of the letters. :-D

Carl Crossgrove's picture
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I'd rather see Canyada than simply Canada, with the accent missing.

And then there’s bad English, which we still have to read and absorb!
“I asked Maria you wanted tuna or turkey sandwich?”

That sounds like speech to me, not writing; I'd expect the writing of the same speaker to be atrocious in a different way, or possibly better than his/her speech, but not the same. I've seen a lot of examples of this. Some very eloquent people write like children and vice versa.

Do I care
I do care

Adding punctuation before English sentences doesn't read as improvement to me. If illiteracy has penetrated to that level, then we don't need "improvement" so much as remediation.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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What about with a macron? :-/

> That sounds like speech to me, not writing

Yes, books are expressly forbidden from including dialog.
Ever heard of "The Color Purple"? Improper English can be quite effective.

> If illiteracy has penetrated to that level, then we
> don’t need “improvement” so much as remediation.

But that's a different sphere of action.
And think for example of a book that tries to
remediate poor English through examples.

hhp

Carl Crossgrove's picture
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Good writers construct their dialog to be understood well as vernacular speech. Typically, written expressions of this kind are not made to be confusing in the way you are talking about. The example you gave is confusing out of context, but in the body of a story (like the Color Purple) it wouldn't be. So what's your point? Non-snotty replies please. Don't forget the kind of vernacular remarks I've posted in the past.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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I don't understand your resistance here. English sentences can sometimes not be discernible as questions until you get to the end. And this is not confined to mangled English (as if most English is squeaky clean). In these cases an opening question mark helps. Finis.

hhp

Carl Crossgrove's picture
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Is the need so great that the language suffers, given the conventions of reading and writing that English speakers maintain? Is this a major flaw in English that requires repair, or is it just something you'd enjoy seeing? Remember, your POV is not average. I'm still not seeing English as so broken that this would magically help a lot. I think basic illiteracy is much larger than this.

Did you have trouble understanding those last sentences? This one?

You tend to be on the constant lookout for ways to reform language and writing, and you must realize it's not my opinion or conservatism that's in your way, it's the collective momentum/weight of some long-evolved systems that have been adapted by millions of people to be very, very flexible and expressive. If something needs to be added to English, it probably will catch fire. Have a ball, use punctuation at the beginning of sentences. But it's not 'finis' until the language reform has been adopted; I'm not holding my breath.

Eben Sorkin's picture
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So Hrant, your argument to us is that it is a purely functional benefit.

Maaaaybe. But consider this counter argument: Culture.

Before you convict me of being a poet or something; [ heaven forfend! ;-) ] consider Japanese. In Japanese they have a less precise way of describing most things. A lot of context is needed to successfully 'get' what going on both in written form & speech. It's not a language in which it's easy to say for instance precisely where something is located like it is in German or English. But they like it that way. It's a positive cultural value from their point of view and I have heard many quite convincing arguments about what the benefits are mostly having to do with the richness and subtlety of expression that possible and engagement that the language requires - an Engagement that English doesn't require or cultivate to nearly the same degree.

Why all the Japanese stuff? Because I think that a valid counter argument might well be that English is already so over-specific that it needs all the room for swoooshy vagueness it can get. The inherently structurally repressed subtlety might be cultivating an unconscious wish for a more vagueness & poetry. That wish might account for the habit of English to acquire endless new words ( Oooh! What could that mean? ); and a significant tolerance and even love of dialects. Both things provide perhaps a kind of needed 'terra incognito' ready to be explored.

The additional immediacy and clarity that an added ¿ to the front of an English sentence/question makes it clamp down harder. Or put another way - it stamps out a minor sense of suspense.

You might like that a lot given your predilection for spiky fonts and short brusque replys. And that's fine. I even like it about you.

But what's good for you may not be what the Culture of English wants - quite apart from what cultural gatekeepers, establishment types, the conservative by virtue of being frail and scared, and assorted stand-ins for 'the man' and Cruft might say. Sure they may be a pain in the ass. May be? ARE. But I think that's not all that's going on.

Nick Shinn's picture
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It's the job of vernacular speech to push the limits of "correct" grammar and to defy transliteration. Know I'm sayin?

Eben Sorkin's picture
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Nick I know what that means; but how does that impact either Hrant's idea or my rebuttal of it? You may be going somewhere with that but I can't seem to follow where that might be.

I thought of another way of framing my argument: Explicitness does always equal greater or better meaning.