Looking at this question on SO I noticed that the user name in two of the answers ("William Bettridge-Radford") is cut off mid-character on the right hand side:


(This is on Firefox 19.0 on Windows but I also see it on a much older Firefox on Linux.)

It is quite a long user name but I still don't think it should be cut off mid-character—if truncated the truncation should preserve whole characters, and there should be some indication that it has been truncated, like "William Bettridge-Rad..." or a fade-out effect.

Good user interface guidelines would seem to agree with me:


I am aware of this question which has been closed as a duplicate of this question which in turn has been tagged as . However that relates to the fact that the name is truncated at all, rather than the fact that the truncation is mid-character and not otherwise indicated to the user.

I also asked this meta-meta question about how to deal with this case, in case it looks eerily familiar :-)

  • 3
    i.stack.imgur.com/kvpyQ.png - that's how it would look like with text-overflow: ellipsis – ThiefMaster Mar 5 '13 at 16:50
  • Know what? It's not cut off for me. Was it already changed, or is it a browser thing? – Daniel Fischer Mar 5 '13 at 19:38
  • @DanielFischer, I still see it. I'll edit to include a screenshot and browser details in a moment. – Vicky Mar 5 '13 at 21:12
  • I guess it looks somewhat similar to the screenshots in the "Long names" question, though with a bit more cut off than half the last letter. Could it be the font size? – Daniel Fischer Mar 5 '13 at 21:34
  • @DanielFischer, it is half the last letter cut off. Interesting point about the font size - as I zoom in and out through the font size range it comes and goes in alternate sizes, so yes, it is related. – Vicky Mar 5 '13 at 21:45

When a username is cut off, it should be faded, and nothing else. That is, I think it should not be truncated to the most last full character displayed.

Truncating, as you propose, is problematic, because:

  • If it's truncated while fading, there's no reason.

  • If it's truncated with an ellipse, the ellipse (...) takes up even more space and the name must be truncated earlier.

  • If it's just truncated, so that no character past the last one that can display fully is shown, we often won't know it's cut of at all. That's a bad thing.

    There's something inherently valuable about truncating in the middle of a character. Then we usually know it's truncated. Sometimes it's cut off between characters and sometimes a character is cut off so it looks like another character, but usually it's clear that it's cut off, and then we know we're not seeing the full and proper name.

    For this reason, the current behavior is not really that bad and I'd argue fading is the only better alternative available (which is not really an alternative at all, since names would still be truncated mid-character).

This answer argues for fading.

This one argues against fading, because it doesn't look as good on a low-contrast monitor. But for this application, so what? Even on a low-contrast monitor, users will get more valuable information, with less ugliness, than if the current behavior is retained or if ellipses are introduced.

  • I think we might be using "truncation" to mean slightly different things - the name is already being truncated (i.e. the whole thing is not being shown), I'm not proposing truncating it. I'm proposing a better (IMO!) way to show that it is being truncated, either with ellipses or with fading. I'm happy to agree with you that fading is better than ellipses. – Vicky Mar 6 '13 at 13:23
  • @Vicky I'm arguing that truncating it earlier than necessary, by making it so that only full letters can appear, should not be done. Showing that the full name is not displayed, so long as it's done in a way that doesn't cause less of the name to be displayed, is a good thing. – Eliah Kagan Mar 6 '13 at 21:53
  • OK, got you. In that case, I agree. – Vicky Mar 7 '13 at 11:12

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