W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > February 2002

Re: structure or presentation?

From: Jonny Axelsson <jax@opera.no>
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 20:10:06 +0100
To: www-html@w3.org
Message-Id: <4YJHC9LHKIHGMJ04HFZYFB1WB8ZXLG07.3c71518e@falcon>
16.02.02 18:54:07, hammond@csc.albany.edu (William F. Hammond) wrote:

>The boundary between content and presentation is somewhat fuzzy.

>It is generally asserted that <strong> is content markup while
><b> is presentation.  If, however, "b" is perceived as standing
>for "bold" -- parallel in English meaning to "strong" -- rather
>than "boldface" -- a font style, then the distinction between
><strong> and <b> disappears.

I agree, the boundary is fuzzy. Some "presentational" elements can have 
additional information that is "somewhat semantic", notably the I element in 
inline text. Some uses (e.g. emphasis) is mostly regular and EM can be used. 
Other uses, such as block-level italic (<p><i>...</i></p>) is almost always 
purely ornamental. 

To take a few examples of semantic use of italic in US English (Chicago 
Manual of Style):

-for bill or law
-for genus and species
-for musical terms
-for special terminology
-for stage directions
-for titles of periodicals
-for words as words

If any of these should be machine processed, markup should be used, but 
these terms are too many, often too vague and too language dependent to be 
used in a universal vocabulary. If the target audience is people reading 
some article/page, it is up to them and their command of the language to 
determine why some term is italicised.

The I element is not really needed though, you can use <span class="bill">, 
or <span class="structural-italic">. It just isn't very handcoder-friendly, 
and for that reason is very unlikely to go away for a long time, if ever.



STRONG on the other hand was a design mistake, and I believe it should be 
deprecated as soon as possible. It does everyone who believes in structural 
and device independent markup a disservice. The motivation no doubt was to 
"get rid of" B the same way EM "got rid of" I. This was done way before CSS, 
when presentation had to be done using markup (with many later cases such as  
using BLOCKQUOTE to add margin indents). 

The most marked effect of STRONG is that it has cemented the relationship 
EM==I and STRONG==B, which has made EM essentially pointless as a 
"politically correct" I. This is particularily notable with a certain 
popular WYSIWYG HTML editor that has two buttons, [B] and [I], for STRONG 
and EM respectively.

One good proposal for XHTML 2.0 has been to add a HIGHLIGHT element. This 
has traditionally (to the horror of many typographers) been rendered as 
boldface. EM and HIGHLIGHT would be far better ambassadors for structural 
markup than EM and STRONG has been.



Jonny Axelsson
Documentation,
Opera software
Received on Monday, 18 February 2002 14:07:46 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0+W3C-0.50 : Tuesday, 27 March 2012 18:15:50 GMT