CJK typography they never taught you
Despite increased support of CJK typography, some things seem to be never mentioned. Here is an incomplete random list:
- Semantics and placement of the underline and wavy underline
- The honorific function of the full-width space
- The traditional pilcrow character (a.k.a. the mythical CJK zero)
- Right-to-left horizontal writing (an archaism which is not quite dead yet)
- Left-to-right vertical writing (a neologism that the West seems to be unaware of)
Certainly, software support for CJK typography has been steadily improving, especially in word processors, though the support is not perfect. More troubling is that support does not seem to exist in higher-end “professional” typesetting software (e.g., Adobe InDesign CS5, QuarkXpress 7). Unless you are using typesetting systems from East Asia, you are likely to run into unsolvable problems sooner or later.
- Typesetting mixed English-Chinese text vertically
- Flush-left (when horizontal) or flush-top (when vertical) text
- Archaic ruby-like punctuation marks
- Break between underlined words
- Right-to-left horizontal text
The usual “solution” to any of these problems is to give up (to typeset the text in some other way). A notable exception is right-to-left support: As recent as a few years ago, some people will go to the trouble of typing, say, a horizontal headline in reverse so that they will come up correctly when read right-to-left.
Culturally speaking, this lack of support is a very serious problem. As people work around the problems by giving up, the correct way to typeset things get less and less used, until they get forgotten by the native speakers (cf. the now-virtually-extinct CJK myriads separator vs the Western thousands separator). In other words, the lack of proper native language typographic support forces Western typographic conventions onto non-Western typography. In a sense, this is arguably a form of cultural imperialism.