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Re: Punctuation in lists

From: <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 15:12:57 -0500
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <852568C5.006FE42C.00@d54mta08.raleigh.ibm.com>

Bruce wrote:
>I have been in the habit of ending list items with punctuation.
>Is this practice still necessary?  Is it advisable?

Steven wrote:
>If I understand the issue, it is however
>more of a speech synthesizer issue rather than a screen reader >issue,
although both can affect how punctuation is pronounced and >the associated
pause behavior.

You are correct that both the screen reader and the synthesizer affect how
lists are pronounced, but synthesizers speak what they are told.  One needs
to understand the "string of characters" that are sent to the synthesizer
by the screen reader.  For example:

List 1:
     First item
     Second item
     Third item

Next paragraph ...

Most screen readers and self-voicing browsers will send the entire string
of characters to the synthesizer and NOT add any punctuation that is not
there.  Bullets in front of the list items are not punctuation in the
synthesizer sense, so the above example would be spoken without any pauses
as in the following:

List 1: First item Second item Third item Next paragraph ...

Since, in my opinion, lists are just reformatted sentences with commas, it
would be appropriate for the screen reader and self voicing browser to
attach a comma or semi colon to the end of each list item before sending
the string of characters to the synthesizer - but most do NOT currently.

For example.  List 1: First item; Second item; Third item.  Next paragraph

So, I also have a habit of adding the punctuation my self, but in invisible
ink, white text on white background, so users of text browser might "see"
the punctuation, the common user of the graphical browser would NOT  "see"
the punctuation.  The screen reader and self-voicing browser user would
hear the pause after each list item, as it should be.  Once the screen
readers and self-voicing browsers automatically add the punctuation for
better sounding speech, I will remove the explicit invisible punctuation.
By the way, the same problem occurs after headings.  When reading in
"automatic or read on" mode, the punctuation is not there unless added by
the screen reader or self voicing browser.  Those screen readers and
voicing browsers that parse the HTML, should be able to more easily add the
appropriate punctuation.  Of course when reading just the heading, or
navigating the list, the self-voicing browsers, such as IBM Home Page
Reader, correctly pause and or stop at the end of each heading or list

This is a requirement for the assistive technology vendors - not for the
authors of web pages to fix.  In my opinion, fixing the relative few
assistive technologies would be a lot more cost effective than requesting
billions of web sites to add grammatically incorrect punctuation to the end
of the lists.

Phill Jenkins
Received on Tuesday, 18 April 2000 16:22:49 UTC

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