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XHTML Basic and XHTML modularization: STRONG; I, B, (TT)

From: Jonny Axelsson <jonny@metastasis.net>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 13:59:24 +0100
Message-Id: <>
To: www-html@w3.org
This is an old, tiresome discussion, and I am sorry to dreg it up again.
STRONG was created by false analogy. One of the major reason why italic is
used, is to denote emphasis. Since EMphasis "got rid of" italic, something
similar for bold was needed, thus STRONG. The problem is that this use of
boldface was largely a result of the DTP (desktop publishing) revolution.
Anyway, a more natural way to encode "more EM than EM" would be to double
EM. That way designer that really want to present this doubled emphasis
differently can set up a style "em em {font-weight:bolder}" I will
<em><em><em>never</em></em></em> use strong. It simply has no use and
hopefully no future.

Some of the more zealous articles on HTML state that the elements I and B
are inherently evil. They are not. This is usually followed up with the
statement that they are a problem for accessability (which they are not),
even with despair that structural markup can't be used, that designers are
stupid, since the actual use of STRONG has been dimishingly low (mostly by
designers dutifully following up those articles and replacing every
occurence of B with STRONG and feeling good about themselves).

Neither are I and B ideal markup elements, they are aggregates with
inconsistent usage. Placing them in a separate XHTML "presentational"
module is sensible (though the implication that they are purely
presentational is false, they have a structural component too). In practice
B and I are used in two modes. Blocklevel, where they always are used
stylistically/presentationally, for instance

   div.abstract {font-style:italic; font-weight:bold;}
   blockquote {font-style:italic;}

and inline, where they follow traditional typographical and house rules for
when italic and bold should be used. Usage of italic is relatively
consistent and useful, and more consistent than a "semantic" element like
ADDRESS. Usage of boldface is more varied. 

A valid reason to keep I and B now and probably forever (or until people
don't need bold and italic) is interoperability with non-XML system. Yes,
it is possible to encode I and B using <span class="italic"> and <span
class="bold">, but
it is hardly an improvement. Of all HTML elements, I and B are the only
truly universal ones.
Received on Tuesday, 22 February 2000 08:00:04 UTC

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