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RE: Fw: Disturbing trend in tables

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2001 15:57:00 -0800
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <004101c0833c$aec11620$0100a8c0@aries>
Kynn wrote:
"Remember that bold does not mean the same thing as strong, italics
do not mean the same thing as emphasis.  The range of possible cases
in which you would want to make something bold is larger than the
sum of cases covered by presentational markup in HTML (2, 3.2, 4, X1)
which makes something bold.  The same applies to italics, etc.

"Which means, for example, that if I wanted to list the scientific
name for a species of fish back in 1994, I could not simply use
<cite> or <em> or any other _semantic_ tag because that would be
a misuse of the semantic element.  Therefore, I was forced to use
<i>scientificus nameus</i> because of limitations in HTML (and
because CSS didn't exist).

"Someone who was taught to use <i> back in 1994 or 1995 was not
taught "obsolete" information -- this is simply historical
revisionism!  Now, if you were taught to use <i> when you meant
<em>, that would be wrong -- but so is teaching people to use <em>
when you mean <i>!"

Reply:

I disagree.

Italics *are* emphasis, unless your entire document is in italics. Bold *is*
emphasis, unless your entire document is in bold.

The name for the fish species would be in italics *to draw attention to it*,
just as book titles, words in foreign languages, etc. are italicized *to
draw attention to them*. Em and strong are not just for the sort of emphasis
I used asterisks for in this paragraph. Text gets italicized or bolded to
draw attention to it, to make it stand out from the text around it. Why else
use italics or bold - because you *cannot* put something in italics or bold
WITHOUT drawing attention to it.

Yes, it would have been better to have structural tags such as <title>,
<foreignterm> (with a lang attribute, of course), and so forth. XML, in
part, was created to solve such problems. But I can't think of any common
uses of italics or bold (other than to force entire pages or sections of
pages into italics or bold for purely aesthetic - wrong-mined aesthetic, to
my mind - reasons) that isn't equivalent to emphasis and strong emphasis.

Using <em> and <strong> in place of <i> and <b> is not only a safe practice
in virtually all circumstances, but it also forces the page designer to
think about the fact that italics and bold produce emphasis. Maybe then they
will ask, Why am I emphasizing this text? That could lead to much better
pages - as, I think, does all effort to think about the structure of a
page/site before constructing it. Just as thinking about the structure of a
poem, an essay, a song, a painting, or a film before and during construction
leads to much better results - which, I believe, was Dave's point.

Charles F. Munat
Received on Saturday, 20 January 2001 18:50:05 GMT

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