spacing for accents

dehac's picture

I am doing a bit of spacing lately and came across the accents. how are they spaced? In some fonts they have all the same width (Myriad) and in others they have their own width (Thesis). Whats the correct way or what are the different "philosophies" behind these two ways of spacing? Is there any rules to that or does it not even matter, since accents are hardly ever used by themselfes anyway.

Thanks for any suggestions.


oldnick's picture

Is there any rules to that or does it not even matter, since accents are hardly ever used by themselfes anyway.

The latter part of your question answers itself. As far as spacing of accents when used in composite characters, what I can gather of the prevailing wisdom is that accents should be centered horizontally over the letter, and vertically with each other. Although horizontal centering usually looks fine with breve, caron, circumlex, dieresis, dot, macron, ring and tilde accents, I usually fudge acute accents to the left and grave accents to the right (top row). And "usual" horizontal centering doesn't work when the optical center (bottom row) of the character doesn't line up with the geometrical center (middle row).

Nick Shinn's picture

You can make the regular accents in a font either fixed-width or variable.
As you say, they aren't used for anything, unless a typographer wants to play with the position of an accent by kerning (or do some heavy-metal umlauting), in which case the width is irrelevant.
Actually, they do appear in type specimens, so design them to look good there!

paul d hunt's picture

The Microsoft character design standards advise placing accents on the en space, but in this thread, John Hudson proposes a more sensible approach.

Nick Shinn's picture

John is talking about combining accents, which are an alternate set of characters which have different Unicode from the regular accents in the basic encodings.

paul d hunt's picture

By the way, I never follow the recommendation to put spacing marks on an en space. I usually put them on the width of the lowercase o, positioned so that they would be in correct relationship to the o if superimposed.
(emphasis added)

he talks about both spacing and combining, if you read the whole post.

guifa's picture

Accents are used on their least on Mac OS X. I'd need to make a keyboard that has some of the less-used combining diacritics (like combining small-e, etc) to test it, but someone might already know for sure.

When you type with a keyboard on OS X that has dead keys, that is, most European keyboards, when you type a deadkey, the accent is highlighted in peach wtih the diacritic to be added in it. The spacing within the marks is afaik based on the spacing as given in the font. So in monospaced fonts, it's always the same width, but in other fonts, it will have varying width. I do know that the ^ is based on the ascii caret, but like I said, for some of the others I'd need to make a test keyboard to be absolutely certain which letters it gets from the standalones and which it gets from the combining ones.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

dehac's picture

thank you everyone for your input.

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