Internet Architecture Board (IAB)H. Flanagan, Editor
Request for Comments: 7997RFC Editor
Updates: 7322December 2016
Category: Informational
ISSN: 2070-1721

The Use of Non-ASCII Characters in RFCs

Abstract

In order to support the internationalization of protocols and a more diverse Internet community, the RFC Series must evolve to allow for the use of non-ASCII characters in RFCs. While English remains the required language of the Series, the encoding of future RFCs will be in UTF-8, allowing for a broader range of characters than typically used in the English language. This document describes the RFC Editor requirements and gives guidance regarding the use of non-ASCII characters in RFCs.

This document updates RFC 7322. Please view this document in PDF form to see the full text.

Status of this Memo

This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is published for informational purposes.

This document is a product of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and represents information that the IAB has deemed valuable to provide for permanent record. It represents the consensus of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). Documents approved for publication by the IAB are not a candidate for any level of Internet Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841.

Information about the current status of this document, any errata, and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7997.

Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2016 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the document authors. All rights reserved.

This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document. Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect to this document.


1. Introduction

Please review the PDF version of this draft.

For much of the history of the RFC Series, the character encoding used for RFCs has been ASCII [RFC20]. This was a sensible choice at the time: the language of the Series has always been English, a language that primarily uses ASCII-encoded characters (ignoring for a moment words borrowed from more richly decorated alphabets); and, ASCII is the "lowest common denominator" for character encoding, making cross-platform viewing trivial.

There are limits to ASCII, however, that hinder its continued use as the exclusive character encoding for the Series. The increasing need for easily readable, internationalized content suggests it is time to allow non-ASCII characters in RFCs where necessary. To support this move away from ASCII, RFCs will switch to supporting UTF-8 as the default character encoding and will allow support for a broad range of Unicode characters [UnicodeCurrent]. Note that the RFC Editor may reject any code point that does not render adequately across all formats or in enough rendering engines using the v3 tooling.

Given the continuing goal of maximum readability across platforms, the use of non-ASCII characters should be limited to only where necessary within the text. This document describes the rules under which non-ASCII characters may be used in an RFC. These rules will be applied as the necessary changes are made to submission checking and editorial tools.

This document updates the RFC Style Guide [RFC7322].

The details included in this document are expected to change based on experience gained in implementing the new publication toolsets. Revised documents will be published capturing those changes as the toolsets are completed. Other implementers must not expect those changes to remain backwards compatible with the details included in this document.

2. Basic Requirements

Two fundamental requirements inform the guidance and examples provided in this document. They are:

3. Rules for the Use of Non-ASCII Characters

This section describes the guidelines for the use of non-ASCII characters in an RFC. If the RFC Editor identifies areas where the use of non-ASCII characters negatively impacts the readability of the text, they will request alternate text.

The RFC Editor may, in cases of entire words represented in non-ASCII characters, ask for a set of reviewers to verify the meaning, spelling, characters, and grammar of the text.

3.1. General Usage throughout a Document

Where the use of non-ASCII characters is purely part of an example and not otherwise required for correct protocol operation, escaping the non-ASCII character is not required. Note, however, that as the language of the RFC Series is English, the use of non-ASCII characters is based on the spelling of words commonly used in the English language following the guidance in the Merriam-Webster dictionary [MerrWeb].

The RFC Editor will use the primary spelling listed in that dictionary by default.

Example of non-ASCII characters that do not require escaping (example from Section 3.1.1.12 of RFC 4475 [RFC4475], with a hex dump replaced by the actual character glyphs):

This particular response contains unreserved and non-ASCII
UTF-8 characters.
This response is well formed.  A parser must accept this message.

Message Details : unreason

SIP/2.0 200 = 2**3 * 5**2 но сто девяносто девять - простое
Via: SIP/2.0/UDP 192.0.2.198;branch=z9hG4bK1324923
Call-ID: unreason.1234ksdfak3j2erwedfsASdf
CSeq: 35 INVITE
From: sip:user@example.com;tag=11141343
To: sip:user@example.edu;tag=2229 Content-Length: 154
Content-Type: application/sdp

3.2. Person Names

Person names may appear in several places within an RFC (e.g., the header, Acknowledgements, and References). When a script outside the Unicode Latin blocks [UNICODE-CHART] is used for an individual name, an author-provided, ASCII-only identifier will appear immediately after the non-Latin characters, surrounded by parentheses. This will improve general readability of the text.

Example header:

OLD:


Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                       J. Tong
Request for Comments: 7380                                C. Bi, Ed.
Category: Standards Track                              China Telecom
ISSN: 2070-1721                                              R. Even
                                                          Q. Wu, Ed.
                                                            R. Huang
                                                              Huawei
                                                       November 2014

PROPOSED/NEW:


Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                       J. Tong
Request for Comments: 7380                                C. Bi, Ed.
Category: Standards Track                              China Telecom
ISSN: 2070-1721                                   רנוי אןב (R. Even)
                                                    吴钦 (Q. Wu), Ed.
                                                            R. Huang
                                                              Huawei
                                                       November 2014

Example Acknowledgements section:

OLD:

The following people contributed significant text to early versions of this draft: Patrik Faltstrom, William Chan, and Fred Baker.

PROPOSED/NEW:

The following people contributed significant text to early versions of this draft: Patrik Fältström (Faltstrom), 陈智昌 (William Chan), and Fred Baker.

Example reference entry:

OLD:

   [RFC6630]  Cao, Z., Deng, H., Wu, Q., and G. Zorn, Ed., "EAP
              Re-authentication Protocol Extensions for Authenticated
              Anticipatory Keying (ERP/AAK)", RFC 6630, June 2012.

NEW

   [RFC6630]  Cao, Z., Deng, H., 吴钦 (Wu, Q.), and G. Zorn, Ed., "EAP
              Re-authentication Protocol Extensions for Authenticated
              Anticipatory Keying (ERP/AAK)", RFC 6630, June 2012.

3.3. Company Names

Company names may appear in several places within an RFC. In all cases, valid Unicode is required. For names that include characters outside of the Unicode Latin and Latin Extended scripts, an author-provided, ASCII-only identifier is required to assist in searching and indexing of the document.

3.4. Body of the Document

When the mention of non-ASCII characters is required for correct protocol operation and understanding, the characters' Unicode code points must be used in the text. The addition of each character name is encouraged.

  • Non-ASCII characters will require identifying the Unicode code point.
  • Use of the actual UTF-8 character (e.g., Δ) is encouraged so that a reader can more easily see what the character is, if their device can render the text.
  • The use of the Unicode character names like "INCREMENT" in addition to the use of Unicode code points is also encouraged. When used, Unicode character names should be in all capital letters.

Examples:

However, the problem is made more serious by introducing the full
range of Unicode code points into protocol strings.  For example,
the characters U+13DA U+13A2 U+13B5 U+13AC U+13A2 U+13AC U+13D2 from
the Cherokee block look similar to the ASCII characters
"STPETER" as they might appear when presented using a "creative"
font family.

NEW/ALLOWED:

However, the problem is made more serious by introducing the full
range of Unicode code points into protocol strings. For example,
the characters U+13DA U+13A2 U+13B5 U+13AC U+13A2 U+13AC U+13D2
(ᏚᎢᎵᎬᎢᎬᏒ) from the Cherokee block look similar to the ASCII
characters "STPETER" as they might appear when presented using a
"creative" font family.

ALSO ACCEPTABLE:

However, the problem is made more serious by introducing the full
range of Unicode code points into protocol strings. For example,
the characters "ᏚᎢᎵᎬᎢᎬᏒ" (U+13DA U+13A2 U+13B5 U+13AC U+13A2
U+13AC U+13D2) from the Cherokee block look similar to the ASCII
characters "STPETER" as they might appear when presented using a
"creative" font family.

Example of proper identification of Unicode characters in an RFC:

Acceptable:

  • Temperature changes in the Temperature Control Protocol are indicated by the U+2206 character.

Preferred:

  1. Temperature changes in the Temperature Control Protocol are indicated by the U+2206 character ("Δ").
  2. Temperature changes in the Temperature Control Protocol are indicated by the U+2206 character (INCREMENT).
  3. Temperature changes in the Temperature Control Protocol are indicated by the U+2206 character ("Δ", INCREMENT).
  4. Temperature changes in the Temperature Control Protocol are indicated by the U+2206 character (INCREMENT, "Δ").
  5. Temperature changes in the Temperature Control Protocol are indicated by the "Delta" character "Δ" (U+2206).
  6. Temperature changes in the Temperature Control Protocol are indicated by the character "Δ" (INCREMENT, U+2206).

Which option of (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), or (6) is preferred may depend on context and the specific character(s) in question. All are acceptable within an RFC. "US-ASCII Escaping of Unicode Character" [BCP137] describes the pros and cons of different options for identifying Unicode characters and may help authors decide how to represent the non-ASCII characters in their documents.

3.5. Tables

Tables follow the same rules for identifiers and characters as in "Body of the Document" (Section 3.4). If it is sensible (i.e., more understandable for a reader) for a given document to have two tables, -- one including the identifiers and non-ASCII characters and a second with just the non-ASCII characters -- then that will be allowed at the discretion of the authors.

Original text from "Preparation, Enforcement, and Comparison of Internationalized Strings Representing Usernames and Passwords" [RFC7613].

Table 3: A sample of legal passwords

+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| # | Password                       | Notes                        |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 12| <correct horse battery staple> | ASCII space is allowed       |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 13| <Correct Horse Battery Staple> | Different from example 12    |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 14| <&#x3C0;&#xDF;&#xE5;>          | Non-ASCII letters are OK     |
|   |                                | (e.g., GREEK SMALL LETTER    |
|   |                                | PI, U+03C0)                  |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 15| <Jack of &#x2666;s>            | Symbols are OK (e.g., BLACK  |
|   |                                | DIAMOND SUIT, U+2666)        |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 16| <foo&#x1680;bar>               | OGHAM SPACE MARK, U+1680, is |
|   |                                | mapped to U+0020 and thus    |
|   |                                | the full string is mapped to |
|   |                                | <foo bar>                    |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+

Preferred text:

Table 3: A sample of legal passwords

+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| # | Password                       | Notes                        |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 12| <correct horse battery staple> | ASCII space is allowed       |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 13| <Correct Horse Battery Staple> | Different from example 12    |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 14| <πß๗>                          | Non-ASCII letters are OK     |
|   |                                | (e.g., GREEK SMALL LETTER    |
|   |                                | PI, U+03C0; LATIN SMALL      |
|   |                                | LETTER SHARP S, U+00DF; THAI |
|   |                                | DIGIT SEVEN, U+0E57)         |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 15| <Jack of ♦s>                   | Symbols are OK (e.g., BLACK  |
|   |                                | DIAMOND SUIT, U+2666)        |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+
| 16| <foo bar>                      | OGHAM SPACE MARK, U+1680, is |
|   |                                | mapped to U+0020 and thus    |
|   |                                | the full string is mapped to |
|   |                                | <foo bar>                    |
+------------------------------------+------------------------------+

3.6. Code Components

The RFC Editor encourages the use of the U+ notation except within a code component where one must follow the rules of the programming language in which the code is being written.

Code components are generally expected to use fixed-width fonts. Where such fonts are not available for a particular script, the best script-appropriate font will be used for that part of the code component.

3.7. Bibliographic Text

The reference entry must be in English; whatever subfields are present must be available in ASCII-encoded characters. For references to RFCs and Internet-Drafts, the author's name will be formatted in the reference as per current RFC Style Guide recommendations. As long as good sense is used, the reference entry may also include non-ASCII characters at the author's discretion and as provided by the author. The RFC Editor may request that a third party, such as a language specialist or subject matter expert, review of any non-ASCII reference. This applies to both normative and informative references.

Example:

[GOST3410] "Information technology. Cryptographic data security.
           Signature and verification processes of [electronic]
           digital signature.", GOST R 34.10-2001, Gosudarstvennyi
           Standard of Russian Federation, Government Committee of
           Russia for Standards, 2001. (In Russian)

Allowable addition to the above citation:

           "Информационная технология. Криптографическая защита
           информации. Процессы формирования и проверки
           электронной цифровой подписи", GOST R 34.10-2001,
           Государственный стандарт Российской Федерации, 2001.

Alternatively:

[GOST3410] "Information technology. Cryptographic data security.
           Signature and verification processes of [electronic]
           digital signature.", GOST R 34.10-2001, Gosudarstvennyi
           Standard of Russian Federation, Правительственная
           комиссия России по стандартам (Government Committee of
           Russia for Standards), 2001. (In Russian)

3.8. Keywords and Citation Tags

Keywords (as tagged with the <keyword> element in XML) and citation tags (as defined in the anchor attributes of <reference> elements) must contain only ASCII characters.

3.9. Address Information

The purpose of providing address information, either postal or email, is to assist readers of an RFC in contacting the author or authors. Authors may include the official postal address as recognized by their company or local postal service without additional non-ASCII character escapes. If the email address includes non-ASCII characters and is a valid email address at the time of publication, non-ASCII character escapes are not required.

Example:

  Qin Wu (editor)
  Huawei
  101 Software Avenue, Yuhua District
  Nanjing, Jiangsu  210012
  China

Additional contact information:
  吴钦 (editor)
  华为技术有限公司
  ⾬雨花区软件⼤大道101号
  江苏南京 210012
  中国

------

  Roni Even
  Huawei
  14 David Hamelech
  Tel Aviv  64953
  Israel

Additional contact information:
  רוני אבן    
  וואווי
  דוד המלך 14   
  תל אביב 64953   
  ישראל   

4. Normalization Forms

Authors should not expect normalization forms [UNICODE-NORM]to be preserved. If a particular normalization form is expected, note that in the text of the RFC.

5. XML Markup

As described above, use of non-ASCII characters in areas such as email, company name, address, and name is allowed. In order to make it easier for code to identify the appropriate ASCII alternatives, authors must include an "ascii" attribute to their XML markup when an ASCII alternative is required. See [RFC7991] for more detail on how to tag ASCII alternatives.

6. Internationalization Considerations

The ability to use non-ASCII characters in RFCs in a clear and consistent manner will improve the ability to describe internationalized protocols and will recognize the diversity of authors. However, the goal of readability will override the use of non-ASCII characters within the text.

7. Security Considerations

Valid Unicode that matches the expected text must be verified in order to preserve expected behavior and protocol information.

8. Informative References

[BCP137]
Klensin, J., “ASCII Escaping of Unicode Characters”, BCP 137, RFC 5137, February 2008, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/bcp137>.
[MerrWeb]
Merriam-Webster, Inc., “Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition”, 2009.
[RFC20]
Cerf, V., “ASCII format for network interchange”, STD 80, RFC 20, DOI 10.17487/RFC0020, October 1969, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc20>.
[RFC4475]
Sparks, R., Ed., Hawrylyshen, A., Johnston, A., Rosenberg, J., and H. Schulzrinne, “Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Torture Test Messages”, RFC 4475, DOI 10.17487/RFC4475, May 2006, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc4475>.
[RFC7322]
Flanagan, H. and S. Ginoza, “RFC Style Guide”, RFC 7322, DOI 10.17487/RFC7322, September 2014, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7322>.
[RFC7564]
Saint-Andre, P. and M. Blanchet, “PRECIS Framework: Preparation, Enforcement, and Comparison of Internationalized Strings in Application Protocols”, RFC 7564, DOI 10.17487/RFC7564, May 2015, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7564>.
[RFC7613]
Saint-Andre, P. and A. Melnikov, “Preparation, Enforcement, and Comparison of Internationalized Strings Representing Usernames and Passwords”, RFC 7613, DOI 10.17487/RFC7613, August 2015, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7613>.
[RFC7991]
Hoffman, P., “The "xml2rfc" Version 3 Vocabulary”, RFC 7991, DOI 10.17487/RFC7991, December 2016, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7991>.
[UNICODE-CHART]
The Unicode Consortium, “The Unicode Standard”, <http://www.unicode.org/charts>.
[UNICODE-NORM]
The Unicode Consortium, “Unicode Standard Annex #15: Unicode Normalization Forms”, 2016, <http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr15/>.
[UnicodeCurrent]
The Unicode Consortium, “The Unicode Standard”, <http://www.unicode.org/versions/latest/>.

IAB Members at the Time of Approval

The IAB members at the time this memo was approved were (in alphabetical order):

Acknowledgements

With many thanks to the members of the IAB i18n program. Also, many thanks to the RFC Format Design Team for their efforts in making this transition successful: Nevil Brownlee (ISE), Tony Hansen, Joe Hildebrand, Paul Hoffman, Ted Lemon, Julian Reschke, Adam Roach, Alice Russo, Robert Sparks (Tools Team liaison), and Dave Thaler.

Author's Address

Heather Flanagan (editor)
RFC Editor

EMail: rse@rfc-editor.org
URI: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2647-2220