"Django + Typography = django-typogrify"

Something I've put off dealing with (until today) is typography. As a little bit of history: the typewriter forced us to sacrifice certain printed media standards because of its monospaced font. Things like double-spacing between sentences and using straight quotes can be considered typewriter-era "hacks" so this portable machine could sort of mimic what the printing presses were doing.

Well a lot of these hacks have become habitual and, for some, even typing "law"--how many people know there should only be one space between sentences? Well, thanks to the advancement of technology, we can break these habits and return to the glory days of beautiful text.

In Django, this means server-side substitution. Since there are not separate open-quotes/close-quotes keys on my keyboard, and especially since I use markdown to draft my writings, something needs to process the text and make the appropriate replacements. Enter django-typogrify.

django-typogrify with the help of a smartypants Python port does a lot, most significantly:

  • Converts straight quotes to "curly" quotes
  • Converts three dots into ellipsis
  • Converts dashes into hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes
  • Prevents "widowed" one-word lines as a result of word wrapping

It does a lot more than that, but those are the main points I'm using. I had a small caveat because I usually write my em dashes as " -- ". Note the surrounding spaces. I've learned that this is actually bad grammar; there should be no spaces when writing an em dash. Thankfully, Django and Python make this an easy fix:

  from blog.models import Entry
  import re

  for e in Entry.objects.all():
      e.content = re.sub(r'(\w) -- (\w)', r'\1--\2', e.content)

There is plenty more typography work to do here. django-typogrify does a lot of class-wrapping for various grammatical entities which need to be styled. I also need to take a look at my font choices from a "big picture" point of view and determine if they are working well together. Smashing Magazine plenty of material on that. All in all, though, django-typogrify has given my blog a nice kick in the typographic pants.

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