W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > May 2007

Re: Cleaning House

From: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Date: Mon, 07 May 2007 10:39:12 +0100
Message-ID: <463EF3C0.9010706@googlemail.com>
To: Murray Maloney <murray@muzmo.com>
CC: www-html@w3.org, public-html@w3.org

Murray Maloney wrote:
> So you will agree that marked-up phrases in HTML are distinguished
> and that only some of them are /emphasized/.

Yep.

>>> - Bold and Italic are forms of emphasis.
>>
>> Not generally no. Even if Wikipedia is accurately reflecting the 
>> actual usage of the term among typographers, I think ordinary 
>> dictionary definitions are more cogent when trying to agree how an 
>> ordinary author or developer would understand the HTML specifications.
> 
> Sorry. I need help here. We looked at definitions of "emphasis".
> 
> How can you fail to accept that bold and italic fonts,
> shouts and whispers, and lights blinking and sirens wailing are all 
> legitimate forms of emphasis?

We seem to be struggling over the word "forms". Let me pull back and try 
restating my position. Sometimes bold and italic are used to distinguish 
a phrase as more important than the surrounding text. Sometimes they are 
used to demarcate a phrase as /different/ to surrounding text (e.g. ship 
names, foreign phrases). In both cases they are forms of typographical 
emphasis (Wikipedia's sense of emphasis). Only in the first case are 
they expressions of stress emphasis (the common-usage sense of 
emphasis). The question is which of those two definitions is relevant to 
<em>. Are you with me so far?

Now its very existence suggests that <em> has some purpose beyond <i>; 
and the early discussion from www-talk I quoted demonstrated that this 
difference between stress emphasis and other uses of italic and bold was 
recognized by the correspondents. So I don't think associating <em> with 
the stress emphasis is unreasonable.

>>> - It is widely understood by practitioners that systems may render 
>>> bold and italic using other typographic devices if bold and italic 
>>> are unavailable (or undesirable for whatever reason.
>>
>> Who are "practitioners"? I doubt the majority of HTML content authors 
>> realize this.
> 
> Dan and Chris and , do you think that everybody does or should know
> that <b> and <i> can be presented using any CSS styling available to 
> other inlines?

That's not the same thing. A lot of HTML authors (though still probably 
not the majority if you think about user-generated content and HTML 
email authors) are aware that elements can be transformed by CSS. What 
most of them don't think about is fallbacks and user settings, which is 
what I thought you were talking about ("if bold and italic are 
unavailable or undesirable"). Witness the general assumptions that 
people can see images, can tell the difference between colors, have 
screens of a certain size, use Internet Explorer or Firefox, have 
JavaScript enabled, etc.

> I am qualified to say that you can redefine <b> to red and <i> to green
> and aural and Braille readers can ignore or re-map them too.

Of course. Although because <i> can be used without stress and <em> is 
often misused without stress, many aural and braille remappings will be 
erroneous. I doubt most authors know about such remappings though.

>>> If you really think that you get more semantic value out of <em> than
>> > <i>, and you don't understand that you can use CLASS to enhance the 
>> semantic
>>> value of any element, then the markup world is in real trouble.
>>
>> Rather more important than my views is a web standards movement that 
>> widely believes you can "get more semantic value out of <em> than <i>" 
>> (at least, if you discount widespread bad authoring practices).
> 
> Such beliefs are tantamount to religion and magic.

That belief is based on an evidence-based idea that italic can be used 
for purposes other than stress. By interpreting "emphasis" in the HTML 
specification to mean "stress", it /may/ have gone awry however. Maybe 
(since you were there) you'd care to recollect for us /why/ <em> was 
introduced in the first place, seeing as <i> was already allowed to 
fallback to non-italic representations?

--
Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis
Received on Monday, 7 May 2007 09:39:24 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Monday, 29 September 2014 09:38:44 UTC