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Richard Walker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 13 Feb 1997 10:15:14 +1100
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There are fundamental differences between countries in their
approaches to typography.

Germany has Duden.  Although no one I met in Germany likes Duden, it's
there, and you can't ignore it.  And there is a DIN standard for
letters (hence the dinbrief package).

So Germany has a very *prescriptive* approach.
The Chicago Manual of Style presents a prescriptive approach too.
Our Australian `Style Manual' is mostly prescriptive, but (unlike the
Chicago Manual of Style) it gives reasons for the choices.

But the general trend seems to be away from prescriptive to

The new (1996) edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage (edited by
Burchfield) is an excellent example of how this general principle is
being worked out in practice.  The original Fowler's was highly
prescriptive and opinionated.  The new edition is fair more `laid
back', and although it does single out a number of errors, it is far
more content to say that certain constructions are to be `avoided'.

LaTeX is prescriptive - it gives you a format that is quite OK for
most purposes.  And most people don't want to change it (a mixture of
ignorance and apathy?).
Most of the questions I get asked are along the lines of `how do I do
such-and-such to the chapter headings?' or `how do I put page numbers
in such-and-such a place'.  Often my answer is `you don't want to do
that'.  So I'm a little ambivalent about giving people more freedom to
mess everything up.

Giving people a `German format' seems a reasonable thing to do, but,
as I pointed out, an `Australian format' wouldn't be used by anyone
except the person who wrote it.