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Currently, the policy concerning ruby characters is not clearly stated leading in a lack of consistency in their usage.

Answers in English tend to have a lot of ruby even on common words. Indeed, adding ruby ease the reading but at the same time it is not always desirable. I even think that adding too much ruby do more harm that not adding them.

The very first reason is very pragmatic. Adding ruby takes time since we need to write the same thing twice. Thus, adding ruby is a burden to the writer.

Second, eyes tend to be attracted by the ruby more than by the character. I think that this is really harmful because if we pay more heed to the ruby than to the character the learning process of the character is badly impacted. Moreover, even if we know the reading of the characters, too much ruby will eventually dulls our skills. Because there is no point knowing the reading if those readings are always shown.

Therefore, I would suggest that we agree on a set of rules concerning ruby. I propose the following initial set of rules and I would like your opinion on them.

  1. Adding ruby is at the discretion of the writer;
  2. Uncommon 当て字, 難読 and uncommon 表外字 should have ruby;
  3. common words 常用漢字 should not have ruby.

The first rule seems capital to me, after all we are free to write whatever we want as long as it is useful. Rules 2. & 3. are more addressed to edits, if we see an uncommon word, a word with an irregular reading or a rare character then we should suggest an edit. But in all other cases, I think it is better not to add to many ruby.

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    +1. I definitely think ruby can be detrimental when overused, and I also agree it should be largely at the discretion of the writer. – snailcar Dec 15 '15 at 15:07
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    I just wanted to say that for us Javascriptless users (e.g. NoScript extension), ruby looks like this: i.stack.imgur.com/npCPa.png – oals Dec 16 '15 at 11:17
  • And if you have a minimum font size set in your browser (I do), it looks like this: i.stack.imgur.com/JYyh2.png (Needless to say, both are really distracting and hard to read.) – oals Dec 16 '15 at 11:19
  • @oals, Indeed its looking awful. The best to do is certainly to white-list stackexchange and as suggested by Flow disabling the ruby. That's what I do and the only drawback is for 難読. – 永劫回帰 Dec 16 '15 at 11:26
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    Disabling ruby entirely is a bad idea. Hiding it is fine, but if you disable it you won't see when people write things like "what's the difference between 生{せい} and 生{しょう}?" – snailcar Dec 16 '15 at 11:50
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I agree with your guidelines, but I think that it's sometimes OK to suggest ruby on answers to beginner's questions. If I write an answer for an absolute beginner I often try to use kanji anyway, but add ruby. But sometimes I might not and it would be fine for someone to add ruby in a suggested edit.

That said, I think we should discourage users to methodically go through posts and add ruby as they browse the site, because that would eventually lead to stepping on people's toes making the edits disruptive rather than helpful.

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    I agree with you and I find it perfectly valid to add ruby in answers addressed to beginners but I would recommend beginners to use plugins like rikaichan as a temporary measure. – 永劫回帰 Dec 15 '15 at 15:37
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