Formatting Intolerance – June 25, 2020

We are a society of textually crippled sheep held captive by intolerant “standardization.”

Here it is.  You want to describe on the one hand a massive horse, built for heavy loads.  On the other hand, you want to describe a horse fast beyond imagination.  Right.  A Clydesdale horse on the one hand, a Thoroughbred horse on the other.  According to new-age text formatting for laptop-to-cellphone transportability, what I meant was “A horse horse on the one hand, a horse horse on the other.”  I know it takes imagination to port this to what follows but give it a shot.  It’s great mental exercise. Think of it as deep knee bends for your cerebrum, planks for your medulla oblongata.

Consider today’s word-oriented software suites.  I don’t care, if it suits your imagination, think of a word processor. Or a spell checker. Or a package to format text for browsers.  What I want you to understand is, I’m thinking (ranting) about “word processing” or “text formatting” and the rules of the game changing from sensible to downright insane.

When I prepare text for an audience I have it in mind how I want it to appear (for that audience).  My definition of whitespace, indentation, carriage-returns, tabs, line-gaps and so-on.  Not what some universal “standardization” dictates.  I don’t want to type text without line-feeds, depending on the browser to wrap text from line to line such that if I use the “enter” key, it is irrevocably determined I want a new paragraph, indeed a paragraph without indentation and a full space line separating the paragraph I did not intend to leave and the new paragraph I did not intend to start.

Oh, silly goof, that’s so your text can be interpreted for a full (normal?) screen, a tablet, and a farking cell phone.  I don’t want that. That it’s even possible for people to “read” serious text on a Dick Tracy wristwatch is one good reason we have flash fiction and societal abhorrence for anything exceeding fifty words in length. And stupid shit like IMHO, OMG, LOL, ROFL, and I add, KMA – Kiss My Ass!

Kick-in your imagination again.  I want indentation (a Clydesdale) and no whitespace between paragraphs (a Thoroughbred).  I’m typing along and indicate Clydesdale [no, you mean a “horse” says my text formatter] and my story continues until it’s time for a new paragraph directly below the one I am closing, a Thoroughbred, [no, you mean a horse, says my text formatter].

What I said was, “consider the one horse, a Clydesdale, and another horse, a Thoroughbred…” which my text formatter assures me must be said thus: “consider the one horse, a horse, and another horse, a horse…” Dammit, leave my farking text alone! Which, we know spellcheck will correct to “leave my barking text alone!”

Oh, you silly ass!  You can use &nbsp and pre and /pre (“<” and “>” omitted lest I drive my web software batshit) to format your text.  I should not have to.  I was taught rudimentary text formatting in high school.  No, in elementary school. Because some lazy ass wants farking software to automagically do the hard part, life for normal people has just become incomprehensibly complex?  Besides for all the “standardization” we must now suffer through, crippling simple format differences, one browser will honor certain HTML, some not.  We have therefore, nonstandard standardization.

What should take five minutes to lift and drop text, should I make one mistake or forget one around-my-elbow-to-my-thumb formatting step, is either thirty minutes of hell with generally unacceptable results anyway, or delete-the-page-and-start-over.  You want cross-platform capability?  Write goddam software smart enough to transition from 7×14 to 2.5×2 automatically without crippling the flexibility of the human eye.  Do we have only RGB?  Of course not.  Neither should we have clunky goddam cinder block paragraph structures.

End rant (c) S P Wilcenski

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