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Re: null alt-text, spacers, etc. etc.

From: Leonard R. Kasday <kasday@acm.org>
Date: Wed, 05 Jan 2000 17:18:45 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: webmaster@dors.sailorsite.net, Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>
Cc: w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org


I've got to take issue with your statement that

>Some of your examples for alt content for bullets and lines are counter 
>indicated.  There is no other way to say this but that <Q>alt="bullet"</Q> 
>and <Q>alt="horizontal rule"</Q> are just WRONG.  Perhaps these should 
>even be treated as suspicious?  ALTernative text should capture the 
>intent/function and not be solely pseudo-descriptive.  Using a value of 
>"---" for ALT is infinitely better than using "bar".

This question keeps coming up.  When I did a "survey" a few years ago 
"bullet" got the highest ratings.  See 

I put "survey" in quotes because there weren't many responses.  Also the 
difference in prefernce between "bullet" and an asterisk is not 
statistically significant.

Now we can take a more philisophical approach and argue that "bullet" 
describes appearance rather than function.  However, this is inconsistent 
with recommending "----"  which also describes appearance, using ASCII art 
no less.

Furthermore, even though "bullet" describes appearance, it has acquired the 
meaning of  "list item" in at least some subcultures.  In the AT&T 
subculture, for example, we would say things like

"I have a comment about the third bullet"

In fact, the Cambridge Dictionary


has the following definition:

"A bullet is also a symbol, often a small black circle, used in printing 
and sometimes in writing either to show the beginning of or to separate 
items in a list. "

Note that it says "often a small black circle". So they are implying that 
appearance may vary.  So they are defining it semantically, not by 
appearance.  I therefore think it's a good choice philisophically as well.

I move therefore that we recommend "bullet".



Leonard R. Kasday, Ph.D.
Institute on Disabilities/UAP, and
Department of Electrical Engineering
Temple University
423 Ritter Annex, Philadelphia, PA 19122


(215) 204-2247 (voice)
(800) 750-7428 (TTY)
Received on Wednesday, 5 January 2000 17:17:01 UTC

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