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Re: I and B vs EM and STRONG

From: Chris Kreussling <CHRIS.KREUSSLING@ny.frb.org>
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 11:49:15 -0500
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-id: <s651635d.064@ny.frb.org>
>>> <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org> (Al) 11/17 10:45 AM >>>
...
It is both easy and appropriate for the rendering agent to
interpret I and B as EM and STRONG specialized by default style
indications for visual presentation.  I have yet to hear of an
author who put I tags in an HTML document complaining that their
meaning had been abused when ACSS style rules were applied that
lump EM and I into one category.
...
how can we entice authors to leave marks in
their documents which explain _why_ they italicized this
particular text?  Perhaps then we could transliterate it into
graceful presentation in alternate media.  EM is no better than I
in that pursuit.  It is simply a step sideways.
<<<

I disagree that it's appropriate for a rendering agent to interpret <I> as <EM>. That italics should or could be inferred to have a purpose other than mere emphasis is why a user agent should *not* simply munge <I> into <EM>. That italicized text should be explained or supported, while <EM> simply implies emphasis and is self-explanatory, is a reason for *authors*, not user agents, to prefer <EM> and/or <STRONG> over <I> and/or <B> *when the sole purpose of italicizing or bolding is to emphasize the text*. 

I agree that for the many instances where italics are the preferred or standard means of text representation, authors should strive to tag the semantics of the text rather than its textual representation. For example: inclusion of a word or phrase in another language, such as a latin phrase in a legal document, can be tagged with <SPAN LANG="...">. Other semantics, such as a scientific name of a plant or animal, may not have satisfactory representation in HTML and will require XML/XSL for a more general solution.

<author>Chris Kreussling</author> 
<disclaimer>The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System.</disclaimer>
Received on Tuesday, 17 November 1998 11:52:34 GMT

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