New change to the official recommendations for German orthography:
E3: Bei Schreibung mit Großbuchstaben schreibt man SS. Daneben ist auch die Verwendung des
Großbuchstabens ẞ möglich. Beispiel: Straße – STRASSE – STRAẞE .
Translates to: “When using all capitals, SS is used. In addition, usage of the capital letter ẞ is also possible. Example: Straße – STRASSE – STRAẞE.”
From the Rat für Rechtschreibung
’s third official report (in German; see p. 7/8):http://www.rechtschreibrat.com/DOX/rfdr_Bericht_2011-2016.pdf
What’s new here is that this is no longer merely recommends the cap eszett as a valid alternative for proper names but makes it a sanctioned alternate spelling in general orthography. In addition to official documents and forms (where personal names need to be capitalized) the report also highlights the usefulness in advertising and editorial settings, explicitly citing existing usage.
I find it heartening to see that after the initial push to get this into Unicode, type design and typography practice can come together to raise awareness and have a real impact on how language lives. Congratulations and thanks, once again, to @Andreas Stötzner
After reading Typography.Guru's Capital Sharp S article years ago, I was convinced there was some validity to it's inclusion.
Always a fascinating and engaging design task to draw!
Thanks, Andreas, and Adam Twardoch too was instrumental in the initial discussions at Typophile, IIRC.
( "weep" ) – thank you especially @Nina STÖẞINGER (!) for those words!
(I’m proud to have been one of your tutors, once )
(And if substituted from another font, why in bold?)
“ẞ” (uppercase form of “ß”) is part of the German spelling rules as of 2017
The Council for German Spelling (Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung) is an official body that was created in 2005 on the basis of the 1994 Vienna Agreement between Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Belgium, the Bozen-Südtirol autonomous provice of Italy, as well as Romania and Hungary, and includes delegates from the founding member states.
In 2006, the Council published the first edition of the Official Rules of German Spelling (“Amtliches Regelwerk der deutschen Rechtschreibung”) — a common set of spelling Rules for the Standard German language. The Rules govern the spelling of Standard German, and include notes where local variations of German differ from Standard German (such as in case of Swiss German).
On June 29, 2017, the Council published the 2017 edition of the Official Rules of German Spelling, a comprehensive update that replaces the 2006 Rules and is a result of a five-year debate and revision process.
One of the main novel aspects is that the letter “ẞ” (uppercase form of “ß”, Unicode U+1E9E) is now accepted as part of the Standard German alphabet and spelling.
In regular writing, the basic rule of uppercasing “ß” as “SS” remains as one possibility, but alternatively, “ẞ” can be used as the uppercase variant of “ß”. Also, the document says that “each letter exists as a lowercase and an uppercase letter”, and enumerates “ẞ” as part of the uppercase alphabet. The relevant excerpts of the new Rules and the press release issued by the Council pertaining to “ẞ” are included in the Annex.
It’s worth nothing that already in 2010, the 5th edition of the German “Toponymic Guidelines for map and other editors for international use” published by the German Federal Office of Cartography and Geodesy (Bundesamt für Kartographie und Geodäsie) made “ẞ” the preferred uppercase variant of “ß” for use in geographical names, when spelled in all caps:
Why is “ß” needed?
The presence of the letter “ß” in the Standard German alphabet makes ortographic sense, as the letter serves and important purpose. In the 1996 spelling reform the status of “ß” as a “single letter” (rather than a ligature) has been finally confirmed. In the previous spelling, the general rule was that short vowels are denoted by following them by doubled consonant letters while long vowels are followed by single consonant letters. So writing “met” always indicates a long “e:” sound while “mett” indicates a short “e” sound.
Before 1996, the case of “s”/“ß” was confusing. Following a vowel with a single “s” always denoted a long vowel, but letter “s” by itself was an ambiguous consonant, because in German because it often stands for the “z” sound. Following a vowel with a doubled “ss” indicated a short vowel. Before 1996, following a vowel with “ß” did not give clue whether the vowel was short or long. So “Ruß” was actually pronounced “ru:s” as if the “ß” stood for a single consonant letter, but “Nuß” was pronounced “nus” as if the “ß” stood for a doubled consonant letter. The 1996 spelling removed this uncertainty by changing the spelling of all “ß” into “ss” when the preceding vowel was to be pronounced short. Today’s spelling of “Nuss” or “dass” underlines that the vowels are to be pronounced short.
Swiss German is quite different from standard German. The Swiss do not use “ß”, because the Swiss German pronounciation is quite different from the Standard German spelling, but in Standard German, “ß” is very useful.
The history of “ß” is somewhat surprising. The letter developed in a two-wise way: as a ligation of long s and round (“normal”) s, and as a ligation of long s and z. The German language adopted unified spelling rules only in 1901. Before that, both in the middle ages and in the humanist period, German spelling differed much. For example, “Thor” and “Tor” were equal variants of spelling the word meaning “gate”. The “sharp s” sound was denoted by different writers differently (as ſs or ſz, which looked like ſʒ). So the graphical shape of the “ß” letter, which was originally a ligature, developed independently in these two ways.
This dichotomy still shows itself in a small minority practice of uppercasing ß as “SZ” rather than “SS”. Incidentally, this practice is understandable for most German readers (though not actively practiced), i.e. “GROSZSTADT” or “MASZGEBLICH” is understandable as the uppercasing of Großstadt or maßgeblich.
Why is the capital “ẞ” needed?
The uppercasing of “ß” as “SS” but also as “SZ” defeats the orthographic rule of long vowels being followed by a single consonant letter. If I uppercase the word “Rußpartikel” into “RUSSPARTIKEL” or even “RUSZPARTIKEL”, suddenly the natural way of pronouncing the “U” changes from short to long, so the reader is confused. Modern readers are used to “ß” being always treated as a single consonant letter, not as a ligature of a doubled consonant.
In 2004, Andreas Stötzner initiated the process of including “ẞ” in the Unicode Standard. His proposal:
was rejected, but in 2007, the German Standards Committee resubmitted the proposal with some amendments:
and the letter “ẞ” had been incorporated into the Unicode Standard at the codepoint U+1E9E.
How should “ẞ” be designed?
In 2006, Andreas Stötzner explored a number of possibilities for the design of “ẞ”:
Dr.-Ing. Rolf Böhm and Andreas Stötzner discussed the various forms in a nicely illustrated letter exchange:
Stötzner ended up proposing a “Dresden skeleton” (“soft+hard”) which includes a soft top-left section (similar to a reversed “J”) and a hard mid-right section (akin to a “Ʒ” shape):
He also proposed a “Leipzig skeleton” (“soft+soft”), with a soft top-left section and a soft mid-right section (akin to an “S” shape).
In 2007, I have reported on the standardization process. I also proposed an alternative skeleton of “ẞ”, that I have since dubbed the “Frankfurt skeleton” (“hard+hard”) — because I lived in Frankfurt (Oder) for many years. The Frankfurt skeleton is in my view more “uppercase-like” than Andreas Stötzner’s proposals, and follows the principle: has a hard top-left section (similar to a “Γ”) and a hard mid-right section (akin to a “Ʒ” shape).
When looking and the evolution of the Latin letter, edges in capitals became soft rounds in lowercase. I have found the Dresden and Leipzig skeletons somewhat unnatural and difficult to reproduce nicely in handwriting. Yet in my opinion, the “hard top-left” edge is easy, effective, and provides good distinguishability between uppercase ẞ and lowercase ß.
A number of German readers of the fontblog.de discussion in 2008 did express the preference for the “hard top-left” variants (Frankfurt and Berlin skeletons), though others prefer the “soft top-left” variants.
Later, I have also proposed a “Berlin skeleton” (“hard+soft”), which has a hard top-left section (similar to a “Γ”) and a soft mid-right section (akin to a “S” shape).
In 2016, I have reviewed many fonts in which the designers included “ẞ”. I was happy to discover that a number of designers, including German-language native speakers (Titus Nemeth, Jan Fromm, Friedrich Althausen, Jan “Yanone” Gerner, Stefan Hoppe, and Andreas Stötzner himself) chose to use the Frankfurt or Berlin skeletons aka “hard top-left” forms in their designs:
There are, of course, other fonts on the market, which follow the “soft top-left” skeleton (Dresden or Leipzig).
Since those discussion happened, I have come to believe that, as with most of the “modern" (post-classical-period) uppercase letters of the Latin alphabet, we will see some skeletal variation in “ẞ”.
While virtually all classical letters present in ancient Latin have one solid skeleton (ABCDEFGHIKLMNOPRSTVXYZ), the later additions to the Latin alphabet have a wider variation in the skeleton. “J” has a narrow descending and wide non-descending form, “U” is round on both sides or only on the left, and the two “V” shapes that form the “W” can touch or cross in several ways.
I think the same will be true for “ẞ”. I think the varying treatment of the bottom-right section in “U” (soft vs. hard) is a good example how both solutions can be considered for the top-left section of “ẞ”. I mostly prefer the hard top-left skeleton of “ẞ” because uppercase is more “static” and has generally more edges which become round in the lowecase (Aa Ee Ff Gg Hh Mm Nn Tt). But I accept arguments to the contrary (c and s are round in the lowecase but also in the uppercase).
Some further discussion links regarding the design of the letter “ẞ”:
In my very subjective opinion, the ideal ẞ (which I'm calling the Zürich form) has the following properties:
Here are some examples from my typefaces Traction, Cormorant, and Quinoa that exemplify the Zürich design:
- The top left is round. I can't help but read the /Γ-shaped versions as a /T_Z ligature. However, the stem should turn into the round curve relatively high up, well above the middle, so as to lend the stem its proper stability.
- Instead, I recommend a hard corner on the top right, close to or at cap height. Round domes that curve down from the apex in both directions tend to produce a glyph that looks too small among the other capitals.
- The structures on the right-hand side should follow a strong vertical line and not deviate from it too abruptly. Once of the most widespread features of ugly /ẞ designs is a hideous axe-cleft in the middle that introduces a hodge-podge of ill-fitting diagonals and vandalizes the counter. Instead, the counter should remain as a single visual body so as to differentiate from /B as clearly as possible.
- Designs with closed bottoms or descenders should be avoided as a rule.
- The /ẞ is a wide character, certainly wider than /B. It should be given proper space, or it will look cramped.
even though your Traction solution looks a bit too "lowercasey" for my eyes, generally, I like this skeleton. One of my problems with the most common renditions of the Dresden skeleton was that it was very oddly asymmetric, and the counters weren't properly balanced. Many Dresden-style ẞ letters keep falling over to the right. But your forms, especially those in Cormorant and Quinoa, "stand on both feet". To me, this is an essential property of all uppercase letters.
I definitely support your notions that ẞ should be a "wide" letter — especially in typefaces where the uppercase has classical proportions (width alternating between square and half-square).
I think even with your solution to the right side of ẞ (which I like), I imagine that the top-left corner can have an edge (and a serif if needed). Then of course, the whole form might need to be a tad narrower. But overall — uppercase letters need visual solidity, and your solution does provide that! Thanks
I'm surprised of the "new and creative" names for these forms.
Did we really need more town names? - If so, I call my form "Dresden/Cottbus".
A lot of these names have already been established early in the effort to make the character official, so there's «historical» precedent there. Given that there's a name for the Zehlendorf-variant of the Leipzig approach (as introduced in the German federal government's house font), and my preferred design is essentially the vector addition of the Leipzig→Zehlendorf movement to the Dresden base, I feel defining an analogous name for that variant is justified. (I'd also argue that Zürich and Zehlendorf look different enough to warrant a distinction.)
Which of these designs would you call Cottbus? They look quite different to me. Some of them even conform to the Zürich philosophy (bottom left).
And your collection really helps a great deal.
Christian, I like your forms, although in certain designs a hard top-left would be better.
I actually think a descender (possibly even on the right side) should not be rejected. The space is already almost always used by the "Q" (and often the "J") and it would help it be less a "B", more itself.
BTW, I think using city naming is cool. And romantic.
So, descending left is the Assen form and descending right is Memmingen? :-)
I'm sure I'm not the only one.
I also doubt it would pair well with the Zehlendorf/Zürich right-hand side, since the whole thing would end up very Π-shaped then.
Maybe a soft top-right would pair well with a hard top-left. And maybe soft as in fully round all the way to the bottom-right component (although then it might be way too much a "B").
I'm reposting the image for reference/linking purposes. Better to use an optimized shape, I guess.
As for the issues you raised:
Two questions about the “ß”.
(1) Should there be (within one font family) a relationship between the lowercase design and the uppercase design of the “ß”? Do the different designs of the lowercase “ß” which exist, require some difference in the design of the corresponding uppercase “ẞ”? This is not about the small details of the design, but about variations in the general shape of the design (Gill Sans, Consolas, Arial):
(2) What would be the best way to implement this in the OpenType features to create All Caps/Small Caps/All Small Caps? When using OpenType features to create uppercase from lowercase, should “SS” be the standard uppercase form of “ß”, and should a Stylistic Set be used to switch to the alternative form “ẞ” (except for Swiss German)?