I have always used anglicized versions of city names (Dusseldorf vs Düsseldorf, etc). Today it seems that using original local city names is the prevalent practice on the web. I wonder if these special characters would display correctly for most visitors. Or which method is better: ü or ü for example.
Is it your own site? If so, you've got control over the meta "charset" line and can set it appropriately.
Entities are 100% safe but if you use a lot of them-- say you've got bits of text in other languages, or one short Slavic name ;) --your raw html becomes unreadable. Your call.
There are three kinds of entities. They can be intermixed without harm, except for the added risk of confusing yourself.
-- named html 4 entities like ü There is a finite set of these. My most ancient browser can only read non-ascii characters if they have named entities. (I don't have to use the entity, but it has to exist.) Everyone of course uses < > and & I also use — -- rarely – -- and for practical reasons although I could perfectly well type them.
-- decimal entities in the form &#nnn; These can be used for absolutely anything including vanilla ASCII.
-- hexadecimal entities in the form &#xnnn; Ditto. I use these for a simple mechanical reason: if I get a character I can't type in and have to look it up, my lookup gives the number in hexadecimal form. So conversion would require one more lookup. Otherwise there's no major difference.
Thank you Lucy. I've been studying character encoding for the past 2 days and I'm (only) now starting to understand it a bit. I guess this is somewhat normal for someone with no formal computer education, although it can be frustrating.
One thing I am now undecided about is whether or not using special characters is really the way to go, especially that my websites cater mostly to an English speaking audience.
Even with an English speaking audience a lot depends on custom and practice in your subject area. For a general audience I would personally go with Anglicised spelling. On the other hand writing in English for Germanophiles (I hope thats the correct term)I would use the local spelling.
You can say "Munich" or you can say "München"
:: pause for obligatory reproachful look at Forums page header* ::
but you probably don't want to say "Munchen". And "muenchen" is best reserved for filenames.
It also depends on which words you're using. Something like "Gotterdammerung" would look definitely odd. But you can happily write about Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin without having to make concessions to anyone ;)
* Yes, I do realize that adding a "charset" line to the page code would break some existing posts. But in the long term...