I guess it’s Metafilter Usage Spit-Take Week; here’s an odd violation of my sense of typographical propriety, in a metafilter comment this morning:
“…and even though I (like many others) called it “Iowa Shitty” all the time, and even though I quickly learned…”
I had a hard time parsing that at first, and I think I know why: the link that begins just inside the opening parenthesis includes and extends past the closing parenthesis.
So what’s going on there? Intellectually, it didn’t occur to me to look for the terminal paren in the link text; but a lot of reading is mechanical, at least semi-automatic stuff, and my eye didn’t catch the paren immediately either. Is it possible that the bold-and-colorful closing parenthesis was by dint of that formatting visually dissimilar enough from the opening paren to throw off my parsing? Or is this mostly just the strength of my expectation (i.e. that the paren would not occur in the link text, period) driving me past scanning the line carefully?
And then there’s the more general style question: is it just me, or is there some unspoken principle of formatting boundaries being violated here? I don’t think I’ve ever specifically read or discussed the idea of parentheses (or other bracketing / dividing puncuation) as ‘style gates’, for lack of a better word. I’d be curious to see anything on the subject of punctuation boundaries and typographic markup.
There’s another big question, of what portion of a sentence should be wrapped up in a hyperlink in the first place, assuming a person isn’t just kind of quickly and lazily linking to have done with it. Should the commenter above have highlighted just “like many others”? Just “‘Iowa Shitty’”? Maybe “called it ‘Iowa Shitty’”? So this particular gripe is sort of a specialized extension of that question. Why would they link the whole bit that they did? Could they have a compelling enough reason to violate the guideline that I’m supposing exists in more heads than just my own?
I’m trying to contrive an example where the answer to that last question could be yes — where breaking across the style gate would be less of a crime than failing to link a given string as a whole — but so far, nothin’.