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Minor layout problem with negative votes

Currently, the Stack Exchange server uses Hyphen-Minus (U+002D) as the negative sign. However, in many fonts, this character is designed as a hyphen, and as a result, the bar is placed too low for the character to be used as minus sign. To represent negative numbers, it is suitable to use Minus Sign (U+2212).

I am not sure if this should be called a bug or not, but this is a minor aesthetic issue.

Screenshot of cstheory.stackexchange.com (left) and its modified version (right):


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marked as duplicate by Joel Coehoorn Jan 26 '11 at 19:20

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Excellent catch! +1 –  Pops Dec 1 '10 at 17:58
I would call it a flag. Also I bet it's [status-by-design] ~ Also, we're a bunch of programmers, not aesthetic artists :p ... better to ask @Jin no? –  jcolebrand Dec 1 '10 at 18:01
Hyphen One. The left one looks better. The right one has a hugely unproportional minus sign. –  Kobi Dec 1 '10 at 18:14
Typographically you are quite correct. Aesthetically it's nails on a black-board for a programmer like me. Seeing a number spelled out in a novel is also a real speed bump. No + to notice the misalignment here, luckily. Can we keep it a programmer's site, pretty please? –  Uphill Luge Dec 1 '10 at 21:07
Given that the obvious thing to do originally was to use a minus sign, this design discussion has probably already happened amongst the dev team. Regardless, I vote for leaving it as-is. –  Jon Seigel Dec 1 '10 at 22:51
Closing as a dupe of later question, because the later question has a much greater chance of being addressed. –  Joel Coehoorn Jan 26 '11 at 19:20
@JoelCoehoorn, perhaps this should be reopened now that the dupe is "completed" in a way that doesn't actually address this issue? –  Pops Sep 28 '11 at 17:34
@JoelCoehoorn This is not a dupe. The other question talks of issues with negative 3 digit scores (bug), whereas this is a request to substitute the hyphen with the minus sign. I've voted to reopen. –  Lorem Ipsum Jan 3 '12 at 15:50
@Joel Please reopen, this is emphatically not a dupe, and the new reputation tracker exacerbates the problem. –  Konrad Rudolph Mar 2 '12 at 9:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'm afraid a global change would affect a lot of sites. Also this limits what font to use too since not all official SE sites use the same font for numbers. Semantically you're correct, however visually I think the hyphen looks better because it focuses more on the number than the sign IMO.

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I am not sure whether it is a good thing to focus more on the number than the sign, because the sign is more important information than the number (−10 and −20 are similar, but −10 and 10 have very different meanings). However, I trust your decision. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 2 '10 at 14:20
“looks better” are you kidding?! –  Konrad Rudolph Mar 2 '12 at 9:44
"focuses more on the number than the sign"?!?!?! I dare you to say that on maths-SX. The sign is part of the number and the focus should be on the whole thing, not any part of it. –  Loop Space Mar 2 '12 at 10:24
@KonradRudolph To me the hyphen looks better too. Much better in fact. Aesthetic preferences are highly individual. –  Daniel Fischer Mar 2 '12 at 13:29
@Daniel While aesthetics are highly individual, design is actually much more objective than people generally think. In particular, the hyphen simply doesn’t align with the plus sign, which makes this convention very ugly when they are adjacent, as in this case. Furthermore, are you sure you actually compared to the correct sign? The en-dash, which is usually rendered identically to U+2212 (minus sign), does indeed look ugly with SO’s font. But the minus sign proper looks good. –  Konrad Rudolph Mar 2 '12 at 13:33
@Konrad In your linked example, I have to look hard to see the misalignment (it's a blessing, I suppose, given how much people bitch and argue about typographical stuff I don't even notice unless I explicitly look for it :). So for me, that's meh, so what? But I see how that can annoy the heck out of one. Whether I compared to the correct sign, well, I looked at the picture here. Generally, it's a matter of font. IMO, U+2212 is rendered way too freaking long in every font I noticed its use. –  Daniel Fischer Mar 2 '12 at 13:46

Even though this change may look better on CS, it would look a lot uglier on Stack Overflow.

The horizontal alignment is off with the SO font. alignment is off

I defer to Jin on this one, but it does look like a non-trivial change involving lots of stylesheet changes.

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Actually Minus Sign looks better than Hyphen-Minus to me even on Stack Overflow, but that is probably personal taste. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 2 '10 at 14:17
If the alignment is off then you are probably using the en-dash instead of the minus. That said, your screenshot looks OK. I don’t perceive the alignment as “off”. This becomes particularly obvious if there’s a plus on the same line. –  Konrad Rudolph Mar 2 '12 at 10:02

What we actually want here is an html minus entity (−). This allows the browser to decide how to display it, and (most importantly) avoids the breaking issue seen here: Minor layout problem with negative votes

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That is exactly what I proposed. Note that − is just one way to represent the character U+2212 in HTML. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 26 '11 at 19:51

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