If you think speaking with an accent is a challenge, try doing it over a wire service....

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/03/31 06:43 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/03/31/1999022.aspx

It would seem that the AP is able to make typographical errors, in addition to their more conceptual ones. 

The Associated Press-inspired problem was ironically enough reported over the AP wire:

Newspapers struggle with name accents By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ
Sat Oct 21, 12:17 PM ET


Many papers blame The Associated Press for going accentless. The wire service's 2006 stylebook says accents shouldn't be used "because they cause garble in many newspaper computers." Yet the issue is far from closed at the AP, where senior editors are looking at ways to insert accents in the names of individuals who prefer them. The wire service has long transmitted accents on its non-English wires. "It's something we look at all the time," AP Stylebook editor Norman Goldstein said. "The biggest problem is where do you stop once you start?  Doing it in Spanish would be more useful, but you can't just have diacritical marks for one language."

The technology issue is changing as more newspapers switch to computer software that can handle the coding necessary to read the marks transmitted by AP. Editorial software provider Atex Limited, which serves 50 small and medium papers throughout the U.S. said all its systems can support accents. Even Colon said he sees the accent over his "o" more frequently these days. The Los Angeles Times instituted an official policy a few years back to add the tilde.

"It's a fractional step along the lines of using accent marks," said Clark P. Stevens, chief of the paper's copy desks. Stevens said the issue is difficult especially for the international desk, which has the most words to check and still gets much of its copy through e-mail and other systems that may change the accent. Also, many Hispanics in Los Angeles have lived several generations in the U.S. and no longer even use an accent, he said. But Stevens says he believes the trend is toward more accents. "It goes back to Journalism 101 and accuracy, and identification of a person is a primary element of information in a news story," he said.  "We've been edging down the road to using accents for a long, long time. I think we'll go more that way."

Better late than never, I suppose. And at least there is an international desk that is concerned about the issue.

But I can't help wondering how someone from Sweden would feel about the issue. You know, like when the stuff on top of the letters is not considered tobe asny kind of accent?


This post brought to you by A (U+0041, a.k.a. LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A)

# Joe Clark on 31 Mar 2007 10:54 AM:

The name Colón does not contain a “tilde."

# Michael S. Kaplan on 31 Mar 2007 11:41 AM:

The quote "tilde" doesn't contain mismatched quote signs. :-)

Just kidding, I guess to editors and wire services think those accent marks are all alike....

# Christoph Päper on 31 Mar 2007 12:37 PM:

It all depends on how removing the “accents” is handled. Scandinavians might be fine with just losing them, except for ‘å’ which should usually become ‘aa’, whereas Germans would consider it ignorant to not substitute their umlauts by suffixing an ‘e’. Let’s assume an article about the European Council in, say, 2004. The attending Swedish Prime Minister would have been Goran Persson, the German Chancellor was Gerhard Schroeder, both originally having an ‘ö’ in their names. I think it’s easier to just keep the characters intact than expecting everyone to apply the correct substitutions.

True accents, i.e. stress marks, are not as important in my opinion, but  why should you lose them if you need to support the characters for other languages anyway?

Am I right to assume that the US International keyboard layout is not the default in a standard en-US installation of Windows?

PS: Somehow my name isn’t stored or restored correctly in the Name field here: The ä is UTF-8 decoded as ISO-8859-1 (“ä”). I don’t know whether it’s a browser or server failure.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 31 Mar 2007 12:43 PM:

Hmmm... the name looks fine here, with an umlaut over the 'a'....

You are correct that the US Intl keyboard is not the default in the US. It is the default for Dutch, though! :-)

# Dean Harding on 3 Apr 2007 1:41 AM:

I'd say he's probably talking about when you have the "Remember Me" checkbox checked, and when you revisit the page, its got the name screwed up. He would then have to change it every time he posts to be "correct" again. Just a guess :-)

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