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John Paul Cook

Social media and special characters

I’ve previously blogged about using Unicode with T-SQL to put superscripts, subscripts, and special characters into text strings. Unicode is also useful in formatting social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and that dinosaur otherwise known as email. When you can’t set properties of text such as italicizing the subject line of an email message or adding subscripts to a Facebook post, Unicode can make it possible. There are Unicode characters that are intrinsically italicized. Others are intrinsically superscripted or subscripted.

Here is an example of a subject line containing a subscript and italics:

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Figure 1. Italicized Unicode characters found in the Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols group were used in an email subject line.

To specify Unicode characters, you need a good tool. If you a Windows user, BabelMap is a great tool and it is legally free, even for commercial use. (The author does accepted donations if you want to contribute.) Download the zip file, extract it, and double-click the exe to run it. It is a portable app, so there’s no installation. It just works.

What is really helpful about BabelMap is that it has features to help you find the Unicode character you need. You can select a grouping of characters or search for a specific character. For example, to find a subscripted form of the number 2, search for SUBSCRIPT TWO. Searching for SUBSCRIPT 2 won’t work, you must use SUBSCRIPT TWO.

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Figure 2. Searching for SUBSCRIPT TWO.

The Edit Buffer is what I use to build Unicode text strings that I paste into email subject lines or social media.

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Figure 3. Superscripts, special characters, Greek symbols, subscripts, bold, and italics in Facebook.

Sometimes Unicode special characters cause rendering problems as the Twitter post shows:

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Figure 4. Notice the whitespace appearing before the uppercase O. It is an artifact because the input string does not have any whitespace preceding the O.

Even Notepad can be enhanced with bold and italics.

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Figure 5. Notepad with bold and italics.

Published Tuesday, October 02, 2012 6:05 PM by John Paul Cook

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About John Paul Cook

John Paul Cook is both a Registered Nurse and a Microsoft SQL Server MVP experienced in Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle database application design, development, and implementation. He has spoken at many conferences including Microsoft TechEd and the SQL PASS Summit. He has worked in oil and gas, financial, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. Experienced in systems integration and workflow analysis, John is passionate about combining his IT experience with his nursing background to solve difficult problems in healthcare. He sees opportunities in using business intelligence and Big Data to satisfy healthcare meaningful use requirements and improve patient outcomes. John graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Master of Science in Nursing Informatics and is an active member of the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honor society. Contributing author to SQL Server MVP Deep Dives and SQL Server MVP Deep Dives Volume 2.

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