February 09, 2009

Xkcd understands me!

xkcdemoticons.pngxkcd - A Webcomic - TED Talk brings up an issue I have been agonizing over for many years: how do we end parenthetical statements with emoticons? I am not alone.

I hate unbalanced recursions (this is why when someone sneezes multiple times I say the same number of "prosits" as the number of sneezes). But if the emoticon represents a unified iconic symbol then the bracket glyph does not denote its usual semantic meaning of end-bracket, and is neutral in respect to the parenthetical statement. Which would speak in favour of alternative 2. Which still looks weird.

I sometimes try to leave an extra space, but then it just look like my emoticon has a turkey-neck:

Linux (or BSD :) ) would...
Using inline images cannot be relied on, since the text can be read in any medium and should be backwardly compatible with everything back to ENIAC.

Maybe one could simply use different kinds of brackets when using emoticons:

Linux [or BSD :) ] would...
Linux {or BSD :) } would...
This actually looks good, especially the first case. But it requires recognizing the eventual use of emoticon at the end of the statement, otherwise it will force a brief jump backwards to edit the initial parenthesis into the right kind of bracket.

Looking at what others have blogged it seems that people have come up with various solutions. One nice possibility is to let the emoticon "bubble" up one level and appear right of the statement:

Linux (or BSD) :) would...
The dowside is that the connection between the statement and the brief smile is lost.

In A Treatise on Emoticons it is stated that "one shall leave a space between the emoticon and the close-parenthesis." However, the motivation is more visual ("otherwise it looks weird") than the idea that emoticons terminate sentences.

I think I will go for either the space separator or use of other brackets {which has the useful property that one can also more easily parse multi-level statements [like this one :-)]}.

Posted by Anders3 at February 9, 2009 06:35 PM