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Old 07-20-2009, 02:17 AM   #1
alecE
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Named entities or not?

I expect this is an elementary noob question, but I've seen different opinions voiced on this:

When preparing html text prior to creating an epub, should I use named entities (“ æ eg) or am I OK to use the 'real' symbols? My first reaction was that I should use the named entities, then I saw a suggestion that, provided everything was utf-8, all would be well.

My context is that I'm slowly learning how to convert .txt format text into .epub files for reading on my 505 and I'm working towards a consistent editing process. At the moment I'm not expecting to produce any other format.

Thanks in advance
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Old 07-20-2009, 02:46 AM   #2
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I use HTML source files so I prefer UTF-8 encoding. Not sure how you'll handle character set recognition if working from plain text, though.
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Old 07-20-2009, 06:19 AM   #3
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I use a mixture. I encode the files in UTF-8, but I still use named entities for characters I cannot easily input with the keyboard or which may be difficult to distinguish with my preferred editor and font. I input "á", "æ", "â", "ñ", etc., but "‘", "—", " "...
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Old 07-20-2009, 07:07 AM   #4
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I prefer using named entities even with UTF-8. Why? Because for some entities like "<", ">" and "&" named (or numerical) entities are necessary anyway and i prefer using one method for all entities.
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Old 07-20-2009, 07:27 AM   #5
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i use named entities for all special characters (&mdash, &ldquo etc. but also &agrave, &oelig, and &eacute etc.), it's a habit from coding for the web. i have noticed that when creating an xhtml file in dreamweaver, if you write the special character in the "design" box, it will automatically be encoded with the entity in the code ; however if you are working with the epub dtd most special characters will not be automatically encoded, this may mean that it's not specified as necessary with that doctype. but, since i am wary of (bad) suprises i think it's safer to use the named entities even with the utf-8 encoding. however your question makes me realise i have not verified what the epub standard specifically says about this ; interesting question.
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Old 07-20-2009, 07:49 AM   #6
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Technically, it is best to use numeric entities (& #1234; ) because they are most compatible (you may not realize it, but named entities need to be defined in the document's DTD, which prevents you from using the same representation in XHTML and, say, plain XML). But in reality I still use named entities, mainly because they are readable in plain text - I mean, if I see & ldquo; I know what it represents, unlike & #8220;
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Old 07-20-2009, 08:01 AM   #7
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I've said that before, but I also use a mix of named an numbered entities for quotes and apostrophes. I use &rsquo; for a curly right single quote, and & #8217; for a curly apostrophe. They are exactly the same character, but it's nice to have them different in the source files if I want to search&replace or something.
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Old 07-20-2009, 08:03 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
I've said that before, but I also use a mix of named an numbered entities for quotes and apostrophes. I use &rsquo; for a curly right single quote, and & #8217; for a curly apostrophe. They are exactly the same character, but it's nice to have them different in the source files if I want to search&replace or something.
ah, that is a clever trick...
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Old 07-20-2009, 09:39 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
I've said that before, but I also use a mix of named an numbered entities for quotes and apostrophes. I use &rsquo; for a curly right single quote, and & #8217; for a curly apostrophe. They are exactly the same character, but it's nice to have them different in the source files if I want to search&replace or something.
The best possible thing would be to use xhtml quote tags:
Code:
<q> </q>
, then define the quote characters in css, the way it is intended to be. Such a solution works for nested quotes, too.

Sadly, this doesn't work for me in ADE/505.
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Old 07-20-2009, 10:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ankh View Post
The best possible thing would be to use xhtml quote tags:
Code:
<q> </q>
, then define the quote characters in css, the way it is intended to be. Such a solution works for nested quotes, too.
That would be using the "quotes" property, right? Unfortunately, it appears "quotes" is not supported in the current ePUB spec.

Another problem: How does it work with multi-paragraph quotes? I believe the usual English practice is to add an opening quote character before each new paragraph, while in Spanish it's the closing quote. And verses or letters inside a quoted text?
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Old 07-20-2009, 10:22 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ankh View Post
The best possible thing would be to use xhtml quote tags:
Code:
<q> </q>
, then define the quote characters in css, the way it is intended to be. Such a solution works for nested quotes, too.
It wouldn't work for non-paired quotes, though, which is quite common in many american books:
Quote:
Originally Posted by example
"Some long paragraph spoken by A.
"A still talks.
"Even more talking from A.
"Finally A concludes his lengthy statement."
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Old 07-20-2009, 11:29 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
That would be using the "quotes" property, right? Unfortunately, it appears "quotes" is not supported in the current ePUB spec.
Darn! RTFM, Ankh, RTFM.

Thanks Jellby, although I still don't see the logic behind omission of that specific css property from ePub spec.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
Another problem: How does it work with multi-paragraph quotes? I believe the usual English practice is to add an opening quote character before each new paragraph, while in Spanish it's the closing quote. And verses or letters inside a quoted text?
I would not mind treating that as an exception and revert to hard-coding quotes into the text. Those situations are rare, right?
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Old 07-20-2009, 11:43 AM   #13
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Quote:
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I would not mind treating that as an exception and revert to hard-coding quotes into the text. Those situations are rare, right?
Quite common with graphomaniac authors.
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Old 07-20-2009, 12:09 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ankh View Post
I would not mind treating that as an exception and revert to hard-coding quotes into the text. Those situations are rare, right?
Not that rare. It may not occur in every chapter, but it tends to happen at least a few times in every one of the books I've made.

I tried a solution with custom named entities, but it doesn't seem to work as I expected.
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Old 07-20-2009, 04:41 PM   #15
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Thanks for all the responses - I *will* stick with named entities (and continue to specify utf8).
Neat trick re. the separation of curly right quote & apostrophe - hadn't thought of that so thanks again.
Maybe it's just the sort of books I read, but many of the books I've been playing with present the dreaded multi-paragraph un-matched quote problem (Buchan, Kipling, Maupassant just to name some recent examples). Sadly the solution of making that wretched character 'A' a non-person doesn't seem to be optimal.
Nested quotes - I've often encountered the solution of maintaining the outer quotes as proper double quotes, and then using single quotes for the inner section. So far I haven't encountered a triple-decker quote sandwich. (OK, I know, vast swathes of triply-nested quotes now sweeping in from the west...)
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