Re: Render EM as underline [was: deprecated tags in Wilbur & Cougar]

Terje Norderhaug (
Thu, 1 Aug 1996 08:16:54 -0700

Message-Id: <ae266383000210046073@[]>
Date: Thu, 1 Aug 1996 08:16:54 -0700
To: Abigail <>,
From: (Terje Norderhaug)
Subject: Re: Render EM as underline [was: deprecated tags in Wilbur & Cougar]

At 3:54 AM 8/1/96, Abigail wrote:
>Terje Norderhaug wrote:
>> At 3:44 PM 7/31/96, Charles Peyton Taylor wrote:
>> >>>> Arne Knudson <> 07/31/96 10:36am
>> >>>
>> >> I fail to see that reasoning behind re-incorporating the deprecated font
>> >> tags, like <U>, back into the DTDs. I thought that way back during the
>> >> HTML 2.0 draft discussions, it was decided that <U> was rather evil,
>> >> because somany browsers used underline to represent links.
>> I suggest to resolve the issue by that the guidelines for how a browser
>> should render the EM element is changed from advising italics to advising
>> that the EM is rendered with underline.
>Why? <em> should *emphasize* the text. That can be done by displaying it
>in italics if the surrounding text is roman, or in roman if the surrounding
>text is in italics. Or by underlining it. Or by using a different colour.
>It's a browser issue, and how it is rendered should be up to a browser.

We agree on the usefulness of logical markup and that it is important to
get as many as possible to use the <em> to emphasize instead of <B> or <U>
or <I>. With the bad decision of browser manufacturers to choose italics as
the default for EM, designers conscious about the readability of their
material might be limited to use the semantically different STRONG for

>> Italics fonts doesn't display very well on screen anyway, and makes text
>> harder to read (if readbable at all). Rendering EM with italics also mixes
>No. Italic fonts don't display very well on *your* screen,

If italics doesn't work on my screen and most other screens I use, that is
a serious problem as these displays are commonplace. The default rendering
of the browser should work optimal on widespread used screens. Power users
with higher quality displays should be the ones to optimize their
stylesheets unless the browser manages to adapt.

Italics doesn't display very well on normal resolution displays, of
identifiable technical reasons: Lines other than horizontal or vertical
will be jagged when drawn in a matrix. As italics is slightly titled, most
of the lines used to draw the font will be jagged. Fuzzy fonts and/or high
resolution may compensate, but reality is that most people doesn't have
that sophisticated screens.

I have spent quite some time designing user interfaces. Italics is
something that is depreciated as a rule of thumb, just as fonts such as
'times' which may look nice on screen but be harder to read than more
suited fonts [how such characteristics of the font affects browsing habits
is an interesting sidetrack...] It is important to keep in mind that fonts
that are suited for paper typically doesn't work well on screen. The same
content can usually not be optimally presented in the same way for
different media.

> And that is the nice thing about HTML, noone forces you to have <EM>
> displayed as italics. [...] Ok, maybe you can't get a browser
> which allows you to do so, but that means something in the browserworld
> should change, not HTML.

Exactly. Note that I never suggested any changes in HTML. I solely proposed
that the guidelines for how a browser might choose to implement to default
render the <EM> should be changed from advising italics to advising

>> with the common rendering of citations. By not providing U but rather
>> suggest underline for EM, it would invite more people to use the logical EM
>> element with the associated long term advantages.
>And underline mixes with a common rendering of links. Personally, I think
>underlining looks horrible, and I would prefer using a browser which displays
>EM otherwise.

"And that is the nice thing about HTML, noone forces you to have <EM>
displayed as underline..."

You are right, some of us living in a color-screen world might forget that
for b/w screen the underline for EM might conflict with links.
Incidentially, b/w screens typically have a better resolution and more
grayscales than color screens, and are thus better able to render italics
in a readable manner. In contrast, color screens are typically bad in
rendering italics but are able to make links distinguishable by the use of

May be the rendering guidelines should advise browser manufacturers to take
the screen affordances into account and make the default rendering adapt
depending on the display?

-- Terje <>

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