Accents & Punctuation: March 2008 Archives

Igbo in Facebook - It Can Be Done (But Numeric Code Breaks)


How does Facebook handle accents? Pretty well actually - but you can't use the numeric code. Instead you have to directly insert the character either by typing it in an Igbo Keyboard or via the Windows Character Map or Mac Character Palette.

For Web 1.0, the safest way to display accented letters was with numeric entity codes. For instance, if wanted to display Ụwa, I might write Ụwa within the HTML document. The codes were safer because they would work even if a developer forgot to include the UTF-8 meta tag.

In a Web based form, the rules may differ depending on how the developer configured the service. In some forms, you MUST enter the numeric code (often because the UTF-8 tag is missing). In other cases you CANNOT use the numeric code - this is true when you are entering data into a text field which will not go through any HTML formatting schemes. As long as the output has the UTF-8 meta tag (and Facebook does), you can avoid a numeric code (i.e. enter a "raw" accented letter) and still be OK.

How can you tell? Unfortunately, you have to test each application one by one. As I've commented before, applications which truly expect to support a global audience are generally UTF-8 ready and you can skip the numeric code. This includes Facebook, MovableType, iTunes, GoogleMaps, Twitter and so forth.

Being able to skip the numeric code is a positive sign (why memorize numbers when you can type?), but as with all change, there will be some old habits to break.


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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