In HTML, plain text is defined as normal text and entities. For the text, you can use all characters from the ISO-8859-1 character set. Not all characters in this set might be available on your platform, or they could have a special meaning in HTML. Also, if you expect that the document will be distributed with a method other than HTTP, some characters may get converted or eaten by the transport mechanism. For example, using characters above decimal 127 in "ASCII mode" FTP is not a good idea.
In such cases, use entities. An entity is constructed as follows: the "&" character, followed either by the entity's name or "#nnn", with nnn a decimal number indicating the ISO-8859-1 character you want, and finally a ";" character.
In most cases, you should use the reserved name if possible. There are also some reserved characters which do not exist in the character set used, but which are defined for HTML.
The most commonly escaped characters are "&", "<" and ">", since these three have a special meaning in HTML.
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Copyright © 1997 Arnoud "Galactus" Engelfriet.