Does font and colour change the meaning of words?

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Top Typographer
Top Typographer
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Does font and colour change the meaning of words?

Post by William » Wed Feb 13, 2008 9:39 am

I have been thinking about what is plain text.

Conventional wisdom is that things like colour and font are not part of plain text.

Yet is conventional wisdom true here?

For example, does the meaning of the word Café change depending upon the font in which it is displayed? Does the colour also change the meaning?

Maybe that change is subtle and not expressible in words which exist today.

There are many fonts available and more arising all the time.

Why, exactly, precisely is that? If the meaning of the text which is displayed in them is not subtlely altered, then why?

So, if one sees the word Café above a doorway of a café does that word have a different meaning if it is in a bold sans serif typeface in black, or if it is in Broadway Engraved, or if it is in a script face or if it is in Old English Text in red?

Does a document, such as a letter being sent to someone, have a different meaning depending upon the font in which it is printed? For example, please compare and contrast a letter printed using Times New Roman and a letter printed using Bookman Old Style. Is there a subtle difference in meaning?

Is the conventional wisdom answer that there is no difference in meaning so emphatic that the possibility that there is a difference in meaning cannot even be considered by some people?

Yet is the possibility that the colour and the font in which words are displayed could subtlely alter the meaning of those words unreasonable? The concept of body language when saying something to someone is well known.

If the meaning of some text is altered by the font or by the colour of the display, then maybe that should be expressible in plain text?

In order to avoid practical problems with existing systems and the rules upon which they are constructed it seems to me that there could be character codes for such facilities in, say, plane 13 and plaintext as presently known could ignore them all and plaintextplus could use them.

William Overington

13 February 2008

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