I would still like to look into doing this, because it is tedious in the extreme to edit every single instance of misused backticks into italics, and because almost no one ever fixes these. Therefore we should just “do the right thing” and map backticks into
<i>...</i> not into
<code>...</code>. Anyone who actually needs computer code on ELU can always just use
Often, new users to ELU come here from one or another computer-code–based Stack Exchange site like Stack Overflow itself. Programmers who are used to using
monospaced inverse video for code segments are often unaware of the typographic conventions and expectations of actual English, such as are explained in this answer.
In short, they unwittingly use
word when they should be using word instead. This makes the site look ugly, so this ends up getting corrected in an edit to set the word or phrase in italic the way it always should have been.
I propose that we ask the Stack Exchange development team to kindly switch around how backticks work on ELU so that they are equivalent to any other way of specifying italics, like with stars or underscores. Then for those extremely rare occasions when actual computer code is needed, the existing
<code>computer code</code> notation could still be used just like today.
This would not affect indented “code” paragraphs used in tables. It would only be for inlined backquoted material.
This seems like a win-win solution. It makes the site more new-user–friendly for programmers coming from other Stack Exchange sites, it saves time, it makes ELU look better and better conform with standard typographic expectations, and it doesn’t remove anything that we are currently able to do.
Should we do this? Why or why not?
First, I should add that I have no idea whether this is even doable. The style sheets and programming for converting markdown that they use here might well too closely tie together these two input forms:
. . . for this proposal to be possible at all. I don’t know.
From the point of view of the Stack Exchange programming team, doing this may be trivial, it may be easy, it may hard, it may be impossible. I have no idea which of those applies. Obviously if it is impossible, it cannot be done, and if it is hard, probably is not worth doing compared with other things on their to-do list. But in the event that it is possible and not too much trouble, I think we should consider doing it.
Secondly, please note carefully that this proposal is not suggesting that we mess with the first form at all, nor with the indented code paragraphs used for tables. It is simply to map the backtick Markdown form into
<i>text</i> in the resulting HTML, instead of into
<code>text<code>. It provides another way to get at italic, since that is what it is usually (but not 100% always) used for.
Those people who for whatever reason really want do
inverse-video monospaced text would still be able to access that functionality without any new programming being required, since it already works as
<code>text</code>. Nothing would be made available. It is just to help new users from programming-related Stack Exchange sites, who may not be used to the standard conventions of regular English. This is not a programming site, so it should not look like one.