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(unknown charset) Re: <q> element, XHTML2, and CSS

From: (unknown charset) Bert Bos <bbos@mygale.sophia.w3.org>
Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2005 15:22:01 +0200
To: (unknown charset) Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org>
Cc: (unknown charset) Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>, Addison Phillips <addison.phillips@quest.com>, public-i18n-core@w3.org, public-i18n-geo@w3.org, Hypertext CG <w3c-html-cg@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20050723132200.GB2296@mygale.sophia.w3.org>

On Sat, Jul 23, 2005 at 09:14:42AM +0200, Ivan Herman wrote:

> Regardless, I sure would prefer to have the <q> displayed in browsers as
> originally intended and described in HTML. I am not sure I like the approach of
> CSS2.1 (in general, b.t.w.) which seems to legitimize unwillingness of browsers
> to do the right thing... mainly in an international setting this is the wrong
> approach in my view.

Many people in the CSS WG indeed believe that 'quotes' *should not*
have been neded in CSS, or, more correctly, that inserting quotes
should in general not be done with a style sheet (independent of
whether you use the 'quotes' property or just :before/:after).

When HTML added Q and required UAs to insert the correct, multilingual
quotes, it was quickly recognized that UAs cannot do that. There are
typographical traditions in various languages (too many for a browser
to know them all), but no firm rules. Only the author knows what
quotes to use. And thus the 'quotes' property was developed to make it
as easy as possible for authors who write multilingual documents with
Q and take the burden away from UAs.

But 'quotes' may be as easy as possible, it is still complex. And if
you only expect the author to use it, not the reader, why is it in CSS
in the first place? The author can put the quotes directly in the
source, there is hardly ever any reason to change quotes on different
media. (And :before/:after are still available for the few cases where
the author does want to change quotes.)

If quotes are part of style, then so are exclamation marks (¡Spanish
has two!), periods, the use of the passive voice, the use of long
words, em-dashes instead of commas, and indeed using direct quotations
at all (he said: "I am Ben") instead of indirect ones (he said that he
was Ben).

XHTML2 is right in not requiring the UA to generate the quotes. But
meanwhile we still have the problem that Q is unusable in HTML.

I guess there are three possible solutions:

1) Change HTML and no longer let the UA insert the quotes. 
Unfortunately, there are several browsers that do insert quotes and it
will take a while before they are all updated.

2) Don't change HTML, but say that the Q element is deprecated. 
Instead, use <span class=q> or, better still, XHTML2 if you want to
mark-up quotations.

3) Don't change anything. Q is still recommended.

The 'quotes' property exists and won't go away. It is implemented, and
the implementations may even be good enough to keep it in CSS level 2
instead of moving it to level 3.

But if we choose (3), we have to be aware that fixing 'quotes' in the
browsers that don't do it very well or not at all, will have to
compete with other things that people also want: multiple background
images, vertical text, line breaking in Thai, high-level layout for
DI, semi-transparent text, keyboard shortcuts, etc., not to mention
all the other bugs that still have to fixed in level 2.


PS. French has other typographical challenges than white space. The
quotes aren't closed and reopened in a quotation with a short
interjection ("incise"):

    « Le conseil est bon, dit Turenne, après avoir examiné la
    la position; dressez une batterie ici. »

In other words, you cannot mark-up such a text with

    <q>...,</q> dit Turenne...; <q>...</q>

You'll need someting like

    <q>... <interjection>dit Turenne...</> ...</q>

but that doesn't exist in HTML.

This is one reason why I don't agree with the argument that the I18N
WG once gave[1] in favour of Q, viz., that declaring the quotes in the
style sheet made it easier for the translator to change them. In
reality, changing the quotes in the source is easier.

Another problem, that even exists in English, is what to do with
punctuation. Assume you want to mark-up

    "Hello," said Alice.

Is that

    <q>Hello,</q> said Alice
    <q>Hello</q>, said Alice?

The latter is correct if you want to isolate exactly what Alice said,
but then you'll need a style sheet language that is quite a bit
smarter than CSS to put the quote mark after the comma.

In TEI, the punctuation that is required for the sentence structure
(such as the comma above) is included in the quotation if that is the
case in the source that is being marked-up (thus the former of the two
lines above). But the quotation marks themselves can be included or
not at will. If omitted, they must be described in an attribute.

[1] http://www.w3.org/International/2004/10/xhtml2-i18n-review.html (item 25)

  Bert Bos                                ( W 3 C ) http://www.w3.org/
  http://www.w3.org/people/bos                               W3C/ERCIM
  bert@w3.org                             2004 Rt des Lucioles / BP 93
  +33 (0)4 92 38 76 92            06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
Received on Saturday, 23 July 2005 13:22:09 UTC

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