Accents & Punctuation: September 2007 Archives

I worked on a math quiz in Math for set theory where questions are pulled into a text file within Flash. The instructor wants to include the union (∪) and intersection symbol (∩) in his problems, so what to do?

The good news is that if you can create a UTF-8 text file and insert the symbols, it will import into Flash (at least in Flash 8.) For math, your best bet is usually to use the Windows Character Map utility and insert the symbols into a Notepad text file or use the Macintosh Character Palette with a Text Edit or BBEdit text file. Unfortunately, the process is still a little clunky in both platforms, but it's better than in 2005.


You have to open both Notepad (Start » Accessories) and Character Map (Start » Accessories » System Tools)

For the Windows Character Map, it's a semi-clunky process. You have to switch the font to Arial Unicode MS (because it has the all the math symbols), then scroll down to window untul you see the math section. Then you have to select, copy and paste each symbol into Notepad.

In Notepad, when you save the file, you have to make sure the encoding menu under the file name is changed from "ANSI" to "UTF-8". Fortunately, it will warn you.


In Text Edit for the Mac, you go to Edit » Special Characters to bring up the Character Palette. Click the Math option and hunt for the symbol. Highlight and click Insert to place it in Text Edit.

Once you insert the symbols, you have to make sure your encoding is set to UTF-8 during the save process. Go to the Format menu and select "Make Plain Text." Then, when you save the file you have to make sure the encoding menu under the file name is changed from "MacRoman" to "UTF-8".

Reopening UTF-8 Files in Mac Text Edit

In Text Edit, if you reopen a UTF-8 file it may be magically transformed to MacRoman (you'll see things like Á& instead of your intended character). Very annoying (grr!!) To prevent this, you must go into the Text Edit Preferences, then click the Open and Save panel. Make sure that the Plain Text Encoding options for opening and saving are set for "UTF-8." Or you can spring for a license for BBEdit or Mellel which are better about warning you.

As for Flash - fonts are still a little tricky within Flash, but at least it's playing well with text files.

Superscript and Subscript

I also used Flash for a College Algebra quiz where I discovered that the XML format does not support HTML tags like <sup> and <sub>. Instead, you may need to use the Unicode characters for superscripts and subscripts.


Glyph Du Jour: Reversed Open E


This is a phonetic symbol I have seen before, but did not understand...until this semester. This is the vowel found in the standard RP British pronunciation of bird /bɜd/ (U.K.) or /br̩d/ in U.S. English.
image of backwards open e - it resembles a 3 or a backwards epsilon
Many accents in English, including UK English, have generally lost the /r/ after a vowel while standard American has maintained this /r/. What's interesting is that even though the /r/ is theoretically gone, there are still subtle changes in pronunciation where the /r/ used to be...which is why English speakers can still "hear" an /r/ even though it may not really be there any more.


About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage ( for a profile.


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