Make English pronunciation (and word definitions) easier to understand with this imported “ruby character” / “furigana” typesetting feature!


In some languages with non-phonetic elements (e.g. Japanese kanji), there can be additional phonetic annotations above the symbols (Figure 1) to clarify the pronunciation of a non-obvious word. This is particularly useful for students, and for clarifying the pronunciation of rare words.

Fig. 1: Even if we have no idea how to read these two characters, we can see from the annotation that they are pronounced “kanji.” This Japanese annotation is called “furigana,” while the more general term is “ruby characters” ( for esoteric historical typesetting reasons.


Strangely, the English language does not frequently employ this style of annotation, despite the prevalence of both weirdly-spelled words and weirdly-exotic rare words that are normally only encountered in academic test settings.

Thus, the fix is simple: just add optional pronunciation / definition annotations above esoteric and/or unintuitively pronounced words in English, as shown in Figure 2.

Fig. 2: Here, we see clarification notes (in red) above some words that a hypothetical reader might not know.


These are basically the same as footnotes, but they have the bonus feature of being right there in the text. Footnotes made a lot of sense in the printed-book world, but this system is more straightforward to use on the Internet. (The annotation will always be right there with no special formatting / complicated web browser weirdness going on).

PROS: This can probably be implemented right now using some sort of highly-questionable abuse of Unicode characters (see the “Zalgo text” phenomenon for an example:

CONS: This undeniably takes up some extra space. But space is free in the digital-print world, so who cares!