Re: Uses of <I>

Scott E. Preece (
Mon, 5 Aug 1996 11:32:11 -0500

Date: Mon, 5 Aug 1996 11:32:11 -0500
Message-Id: <>
From: "Scott E. Preece" <>
In-reply-to: James Aylett's message of Sat, 3 Aug 1996 16:48:15 +0100 (BST)
Subject: Re: Uses of <I>

 From: James Aylett <>
| On Fri, 2 Aug 1996, Keith Calvert Ivey wrote:
| > I'm not even sure about <CITE>; it seems a strange name to use
| > for something indicating a title (but then <TITLE> was already
| > taken).  Wilbur says it's for "citations or references to
| > other sources", which doesn't mean titles to me[an].
| Strange, it does to me - those who don't, I would argue: "They are
| misinformed" (Ian Malcolm, <cite>The Lost World</cite> by Michael
| Crichton). That's a reference, surely? Agreed, "cite" is probably a
| misleading name, and ideally there should be two separate tags, one for
| citation and one for reference, but as it stands I'd say it's valid.

The word "citation" is typically used by information workers for two
different things - a complete citation of a referenced source (the
entries that make up the "References" section of a typical journal
paper) and the actual marker that goes in the text to refer to that
entry.  Neither of those would typically correspond to the title of a

A reasonably SGML model for full citations would include a container
element (say CITATION) whose content consisted of a set of finer
elements (like TITLE, AUTHORS, PUBLISHER, VOLUME, DATE, etc.).  In fact,
there would probably be multiple such elements for different kinds of
citation (JOURNAL-CITATION, BOOK-CITATION, etc.). DocBook has a
reasonably developed model for this content.

The other kind of "citation" (the marker placed in the text to point to
the full citation) would naturally be an anchor in HTML, with an
appropriate REL.  One could argue that there needs to be a little
additional plumbing to allow stylesheets to support normal alternatives
for the form of the marker, like using auto-numbering instead of the
actual string presented as the content of the anchor.

The CITE tag is just badly named.  It should be CITED-TITLE or CTITLE
and should have standardized CLASS values for CLASS=BOOK and
CLASS=ARTICLE, to allow the browser to choose italics or quotation as
the proper presentation.  On the other hand, it's just a name; as long
as the definition is clear we can use it for its defined purpose without
worrying too much about whether the name is right.  This is a nit
compared to the other representational limitations of HTML (like the
lack of the kind of CITATION element described above).

| > As soon as there's a widely supported way in HTML to indicate
| > all the things that italics indicate in print (words used as
| > words, foreign words, mathematical (but not programming)
| > variables that aren't vectors or Greek letters, emphasized
| > words, species names, titles, etc.), I'll stop using <I>.
| > Not before.
| (Stylesheets.)

As he said - "widely supported".  And it goes beyond stylesheets -
before you can do this usefully, you need to have *standardized*
classes to refer to in the stylesheets.  Otherwise tools (such as
indexing engines) have no clue as to the semantics of the classes.


scott preece
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