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First the context:

In most sans-serif fonts the letters lowercase L "ell" and capital I "eye" are almost identical— l/I — and can be distinguished only through context:

  • I saw a lady.
  • l saw a Iady.

The two are switched in one of these; can you tell which? ... Oh, by the way, I've observed that the default font for some pages, in some contexts, uses a sans serif font that nevertheless has serifs on the capital "i". This is true of Template: Font/doc, which I've just edited with the summary

Change Illinois example to specify Arial font instead of leaving font default. On some devices, including my smartphone, the default font here has serifs on the capital "i", which voids the example.

Similarly, I've forced the above examples to Arial for a fair exposition.

But in certain environments the context is unreliable or non-existent. I first encountered this issue on Wikipedia while editing Klingon language and other articles that use or mention Klingon words. I originally resolved the ambiguity by enclosing every Klingon string on those pages in <tt>...</tt> to force typewriter font, and created {{Tt-Klingon}} to explain the usage on those pages:

On this page, Klingon text in the Latin alphabet is displayed in  typewriter font, and with “curly” apostrophes (  ) instead of straight ASCII apostrophes ( ' ). See Klingon language#Writing systems and Template:Tt-Klingon.

But then the tt tag was declared obsolete, at least in Mozilla,[1] and around June 13, 2014, I changed all those tags to code, which enforces typewriter font but also encloses its content in a dashed outline to distinguish code from text. (What you see above is the modified template with code rather than the original with tt.)

Now the problem:

That's fine for actual code, and it's acceptable when the content is an example or quotation that is qualitatively distinct from the text, such as phrases of tlhIngan Hol discussed in a text written in the English language. But it's definitely awkward when the content is phonetic notation, which is used all over Wikipedia, but in which most of the time there is sufficient context to make the difference evident. But not all the time, as in this paragraph from Spanish phonology § consonants, presented here about as I see it on that page:

Although there is dialectal and ideolectal variation, speakers may also exhibit other near-minimal pairs like abyecto ('abject') vs abierto ('opened').[2][3] There are some alternations between the two, prompting scholars like Alarcos Llorach (1950)[4] to postulate an archiphoneme /I/, so that ley [lei̯] would be transcribed phonemically as /ˈleI/ and leyes [ˈleʝes] as /ˈleIes/.

As above, I've used {{ Font }} to force the font to Arial. In addition, I've removed the tt tags that the page has around every capital "i" in the IPA examples in the last sentence, but left the big tags that surrounded them. There is your context, and even with my finagling, there's still a visible difference because of the big tags.

But now look at the last three lines of the paragraph in a screenshot from my smartphone. (I'm sorry it's so big. I don't know how to make it smaller here, and by the time I had taken it, maneuvered my way through the Commons Upload Wizard, and seen what it looked like, I wasn't going to go back, reduce it on my computer, and go through the whole rigmarole again.)

Screenshot, capital I vs small L on page "Spanish phonology", §"Consonants".jpg

Can you tell the small "L" from the capital "i"? I can't. Confusing, isn't it? So the question is:

Do we have a way to make this distinction clearly visible on all kinds of pages in all browsers? Or, if not, can we make a way to do it?


  1. ^
  2. ^ Saporta (1956:288)
  3. ^ Bowen & Stockwell (1955:236) cite the minimal pair ya visto [(ɟ)ʝa ˈβisto̞] ('I already dress') vs y ha visto [ja ˈβisto̞] ('and he has seen')
  4. ^ cited in Saporta (1956:289)

Please {{Ping}} me to discuss. --Thnidu (talk) 05:32, 24 July 2016 (UTC)

Find the answer here

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Trying to learn new things. My article on Platt Electric Supply was declined and could use some help.

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