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RE: <q> and commas

From: Justin James <j_james@mindspring.com>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 12:58:50 -0400
To: "'Robert J Burns'" <rob@robburns.com>
Cc: "'HTML WG'" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <00bf01c939e7$9ddf1040$d99d30c0$@com>

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Robert J Burns [mailto:rob@robburns.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 12:23 PM
> To: Justin James
> Cc: 'HTML WG'
> Subject: Re: <q> and commas
> 
> Hi Justin,
> 
> On Oct 29, 2008, at 7:30 AM, Justin James wrote:
> 
> >
> > Let's suppose for a moment that we decide to keep the behavior of
> > <q>, to
> > automatically generate quote marks. What about the comma at the end
> > of the
> > quote that quotations require?
> >
> > Proper English (and other languages) require a comma to be added at
> > the end
> > of quotes that do not end with an exclamation point or a question
> > mark (or,
> > I suppose, an ellipse). Additionally, it is often required that the
> > quote be
> > preceded by a comma.
> >
> > Examples:
> > * Scotty said, "I cannot change the laws of physics Captain!" in a
> > very
> > tense voice.
> > * When my girlfriend said, "will you marry me?" I almost fainted.
> > * I was about to tell him, "I can't do that," but I didn't want to
> > sound
> > like HAL.
> > * The box said, "... contains trans fats, saturated fats, unsaturated
> > fats..." which clearly makes this unsuitable for children to eat.
> >
> > So, what should HTML do about this? If we've decided that HTML
> > should insert
> > the appropriate quotation marks which function purely as
> > presentational
> > delimiters, then I propose that it should also add the commas.
> 
> I don't think HTML should do anything about this. I think the CSS WG
> should be working on this (as I've proposed in the past[1]). As a
> semantic language, HTML is only responsible for providing authors a
> way to markup the semantics of a quotation. CSS should provide authors
> with a way to present those quotations in conventional ways.

I agree completely.

> Incidentally the placement of punctuation within the quotations or
> alternatively outside the quotations varies even in English, from one
> style manual to another. That means that without providing a
> presentationally independent way to markup quotations (as you're
> proposing), HTML makes it impossible for authors to markup a document
> without first knowing the presentational guidelines towards which the
> author is writing the document. That is a key problem with not
> maintaining the separation of concerns.

I agree here as well. Given enough engineering resources and a detailed
enough spec, it is eminently possible to make a UA magically add all of the
correct punctuation; Microsoft Word, for example, is capable of this. But no
one in their right mind wants this. Mandating "magic quotes" in HTML is a
slippery slope, which is the point of this rather facetious proposal of mine
(which you clearly see).

> You're example here underscores the importance of the separation of
> concerns. Yet you're trying to use that example to show that we should
> not adhere to that separation of concerns. The diversity of quotation
> presentation underscores the need for HTML to provide a presentation
> independent mechanism for marking up quotations and does not support
> the notion that we should require authors to know the presentational
> conventions before writing (marking up) the document.

I think you may have misunderstood my satire. It is clearly a bad idea to
have HTML demand that all of the punctuation around quotations be generated
automatically as a result of an author using a <q> tag. So why should HTML
make quotation marks appear?

J.Ja
Received on Wednesday, 29 October 2008 16:59:52 GMT

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