A recent discussion on linguistics.stackexchange revealed some differences of opinion about the proper use of backticks on the site. I have been instinctively using code formatting to separate object language from metalanguage even if the object language is a natural (not computer) language. Other users of that site contend that phonetic transcriptions are not code and should not be formatted as code.
I have seen a similar question on meta, and some of the answers appeal to the underlying semantics of where HTML
<code> tags would be appropriate. I think that makes sense for Stack Overflow, but it is too restrictive to be a network-wide guideline. There are lots of Stack Exchange sites that have nothing to do with programming, but have inherited the interface and editing conventions that grew up around a community of programmers.
Why should those other communities use code formatting only for code, filenames, terminal output, etc. (which they rarely if ever include in their questions/answers)? The code formatting mechanism is already implemented, documented, easy to use, highly salient visually, and in fact is not even described as "for code only" on the editing help page -- it's called "preformatted text", and the example is a recipe for cocoa.
Is there some other reason I should be avoiding monospaced text to distinguish
tʰɹænskɹɪpʃn̩z ʌv spitʃ saʊndz from the text used to talk about my transcriptions of speech sounds?
To summarize the debate that is scattered among a few different pages, there are several different claims being made regarding this issue:
- how a given Stack Exchange community uses the backtick formatting mechanism is up to the community to decide.
- monospaced type on a gray background is ugly.
- monospaced type on a gray background should not be used for inline emphasis.
- monospaced type on a gray background is a good way of separating object language from metalanguage (similar to the use-mention distinction discussed in this answer from the English Language & Usage community).
- the website for linguistics.stackexchange should emulate linguistic books and journals as closely as possible.
To me at least, it seems clear that point #1 is the most important issue to resolve here. If it is indeed true that it is up to the individual communities to determine backtick use conventions, then opinions on points #2, #3, #4, and #5 are moot from a network-wide perspective, which is the perspective this question asked for.