Death to Pagination and Wives Who Don’t Love Fowler

PaginationIf I could have a beer with anyone on the internet, tonight it would be Farhad Manjoo. I know what you’re thinking, “You mean that guy who says he divorced his wife because she puts two spaces after the end of a sentence?” Yep. He’s my kind of guy!

Don’t pooh-pooh this behavior. If I could choose between world peace & justice and having everyone properly typeset their em-dashes, it would be the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favor of peace & justice. It is just that I believe if we could just get this em-dash issue squared away, peace & justice would naturally come.

Earlier this week, when the little minds were fretting over the upcoming presidential debate, Majoo was addressing a far more important issue: article pagination on websites. You see, most websites break up long articles onto multiple pages. They do this primarily to support their ad revenue. But I noticed this habit long before ads, so I tend to think it is also about giving articles gravitas. “See how important this article is: you have to click to continue!”

I don’t think Manjoo got to the heart of what is really bad about web pagination. He did in a general sense, but he didn’t get to the core of why people like me really hate having to click to continue. And this is not just a problem of the standard article break up that Manjoo is talking about; it is even more common (and thus annoying) with the dreaded “Below the fold” link. Below the fold? What fold? What is the matter with you people?!

The problem with pagination is that it slows everything down. It isn’t the clicking or even the time it takes to load the main page elements. What really slows everything down is the ads. Clearly the ad servers are overworked. Because it doesn’t matter whether you go to New York Magazine or Daily KOS, the page will load and you will wait around for the ads to work their magic. Each day, Crooks & Liars has a blog roundup. I now open another browser tab and copy the links into it, rather than click back and wait for Crooks & Liars to reload all of its ads.

This is what makes pagination in a book different from pagination on a website: delay. Of course, there are other reasons as Farhad Manjoo discusses. The main one is just that it isn’t necessary. People know how to scroll! So just display your content and let us work with it!

Other than this minor augmentation, I am pretty much in agreement with him about all issues typographic. On the issue of wives, I’m perhaps more particular. Not only do I think it is all right to divorce a spouse for a preference for pagination or putting two spaces after a sentence, I would divorce a wife who doesn’t think H. W. Fowler is a hunka hunka burning love.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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