Localize Your Font: Romanian and Moldovan Comma Accent

  • by Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer
  • Tutorial
  • – Modified on

Romanian S and T with comma accents are easy to make.

First, make a new glyph called commaaccentcomb: copy your comma into it, move it below the baseline, and perhaps adjust its size a bit. Often, the normal (punctuation) comma tends to look a little too large, most likely too tall. For thickness, orient yourself after the stem width. In any event, the comma accent has to be visible enough, so do not scale it down too much. It is OK if it extends below the descender a bit, especially in bold typefaces with short descenders.

As for the placement, the comma accent should appear perfectly centred below the stem of the T, or the curve of the S. Don’t forget to set anchors (Cmd-U) or reset anchors (Cmd-Opt-U), and you’ll end up with something like this:

Note how we centered the anchor exactly above the horizontal line at the top of the shape (in the screenshot, this is emphasised by the blue guide). If the bottom and _bottom anchors are placed in the middle of both comma accent and T, then they will align nicely. The S sometimes requires optical placement of the bottom anchor, so the bottom accents will end up in the optical center.

Now you can create the comma-accented letters. Hit Cmd-Shift-G and type:

Scommaaccent
scommaaccent
Tcommaaccent
tcommaaccent

And you’re done. It’s that easy, really. You usually do not need a separate .case version for your cap letters.

Cedilla versus Comma Accent

Or wait, not quite. There is one more thing. You may have heard of Unicode. In ancient times, the Romanian comma accent characters were encoded at U+015E (S), U+015F (s), U+0162 (T) and U+0163 (t). So far, so good. Unfortunately, someone named these characters WITH CEDILLA instead of WITH COMMA ACCENT:

U+015E LATIN CAPITAL LETTER S WITH CEDILLA
U+015F LATIN SMALL LETTER S WITH CEDILLA
U+0162 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER T WITH CEDILLA
U+0163 LATIN SMALL LETTER T WITH CEDILLA

This is problematic because there are other languages which have an S/s with a cedilla, like Turkish, and these languages use the same codepoints U+015E and U+015F. So, how are we supposed to draw the S/s? With a cedilla or with a comma accent?

Do not despair, there is a solution. To address this problem, Unicode introduced alternative codepoints for the comma-accented letters:

U+0218 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER S WITH COMMA BELOW
U+0219 LATIN SMALL LETTER S WITH COMMA BELOW
U+021A LATIN CAPITAL LETTER T WITH COMMA BELOW
U+021B LATIN SMALL LETTER T WITH COMMA BELOW

Modern Romanian texts do use the new codepoints, luckily. And Glyphs puts your commaaccentcomb letters there as well.

The locl Feature

But sometimes, you will come across texts that employ the old encoding. For these cases, Glyphs will automatically create an entry in the locl feature that switches scedilla to scommaaccent etc. when the language is set to Romanian.

To achieve this, just create your letters, go to File >Font Info > Features, and click the Update button. Glyphs should produce a locl feature that contains something like this:

language MOL;
sub Scedilla by Scommaaccent;
sub scedilla by scommaaccent;
sub Tcedilla by Tcommaaccent;
sub tcedilla by tcommaaccent;
language ROM;
sub Scedilla by Scommaaccent;
sub scedilla by scommaaccent;
sub Tcedilla by Tcommaaccent;
sub tcedilla by tcommaaccent;

As you can see, Glyphs creates not only Romanian feature code (ROM), but also Moldovan code (MOL). Moldovan is the variant of Romanian spoken in the Republic of Moldova, and so, all of the above applies to Moldovan as well.

Glyphs will not only automatically produce MOL and ROM code in the locl feature, but will also add the respective language system entries in the Prefix. So just sit back, relax, push the Update button and let Glyphs do its magic for you.

T and t with Cedilla

There is one collateral damage, after all of this. To my knowledge, in no written language anywhere on the planet, a T or t with cedilla is used. So what are we supposed to do with U+0162 and U+0163?

There are essentially two ways of dealing with this:

1. The sometimes-inconsistent-but-even-then-at-least-50%-correct method: One school of thought says, since these codepoints will only ever be used for the Romanian T/t with comma accent, we might as well draw the Tcedilla like the Tcommaaccent and the tcedilla like the tcommaaccent. To do this, just go into Tcedilla (and tcedilla), select everything (hit Cmd-A twice) and delete it. Then, place Tcommaaccent (or tcommaaccent, respectively) as a component in the glyph. You can do that by choosing Add Component from the Layers menu (Cmd-Shift-C) and subsequently selecting Tcommaaccent or tcommaaccent.

2. The better-always-consistent-but-sometimes-100%-wrong method: Some people say this is not good, because this might lead to the inconsistency that the (wrong) s with a cedilla will appear alongside the (correct) t with a comma accent in Romanian texts. These people, believing that poor design is better than inconsistent design, suggest drawing T and t with a cedilla and putting it in Tcedilla (U+0162) and tcedilla (U+0163), even though these letters do not really exist. If the locl feature kicks in, it will be replaced correctly anyway. So in the worst case, there will be poorly designed letters, but never any inconsistencies. Glyphs creates Tcedilla and tcedilla like this by default.

It’s up to you which way you want to go. There are advocates for both camps among Romanian designers. Last time I asked, more people seemed to prefer the inconsistency approach (the first one described above), but I do not have any properly researched representative numbers about this question.

Uppercase versus Lowercase

One last bit of advice. Normally you can get away with drawing only one comma accent for both lowercase and uppercase. But if it is a typeface that has different designs for all the other accents, you can consider a commaaccentcomb.case variant. Such an uppercase comma accent would probably be a bit thicker and longer, matching the thicker stems of the cap letters. If you already have a separate cedilla for uppercase, you will also want a cap comma accent. Once you have an uppercase comma accent, simply regenerate the comma-accented caps with Glyph > Make Component Glyph (Cmd-Opt-Shift-C).


SAMPLE FONT: BEGA BY SABINA CHIPARĂ AND DIANA OVEZEA.

Update 2014-09-02: Updated to new glyph names in Glyphs 2.
Update 2016-02-19: Updated screenshots for Glyphs 2.
Update 2018-05-02: Some rephrasing, text polishing, updated screenshots. (Thx Sabina Chipară!)