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Re: italics

From: John Lewis <lewi0371@mrs.umn.edu>
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 16:45:43 -0500
Message-ID: <14443583339.20030521164543@cda.mrs.umn.edu>
To: www-html@w3.org

Brock wrote on Wednesday, May 14, 2003 at 6:24:33 PM:

> seperation of meaning from presentation is the holy grail

The existence of a sentence element, which has been discussed here
before, wouldn't affect the content in such a drastic way.

Example without a sentence element:

    <p>Alice had no more breath for talking, so the trotted on in
    silence, till they came in sight of a great crowd, in the middle
    of which the Lion and Unicorn were fighting. They were in such a
    cloud of dust, that at first Alice could not make out which was
    which: but she soon managed to distinguish the Unicorn by his
    horn.</p>

Example with a sentence element:

    <p><sentence>Alice had no more breath for talking, so the trotted
    on in silence, till they came in sight of a great crowd, in the
    middle of which the Lion and Unicorn were fighting.</sentence>
    <sentence>They were in such a cloud of dust, that at first Alice
    could not make out which was which: but she soon managed to
    distinguish the Unicorn by his horn.</sentence></p>

For example, you could delete the space between sentences and replace
it with padding, but you would be incorrect to do so. Without a
particular style sheet, your content becomes:

    Alice had no more breath for talking, so the trotted on in
    silence, till they came in sight of a great crowd, in the middle
    of which the Lion and Unicorn were fighting.They were in such a
    cloud of dust, that at first Alice could not make out which was
    which: but she soon managed to distinguish the Unicorn by his
    horn.

Which is obviously incorrect. I think suggesting such a style as
default, for a theoretical sentence element, would be seriously
misguided. Yet it's probably less radical than your suggestion, which
makes even less sense.

The purpose of XHTML isn't to replace content with markup, purely for
the sake of markup. The source is supposed to be human readable, for
one. Obviously some replacement happens, but not without reason. For
example, take the ol element. Something like this:

    <ol>
    <li>Stir</li>
    <li>Beat</li>
    </ol>

Will probably look like this:

    1. Stir
    2. Beat

But could look like this, without a loss of meaning:

    A. Stir
    B. Beat

If that would appear in plain text, the numbering system would need to
be embedded, something some consider a bad thing (e.g., with embedded
list markers you need to alter them by hand in order to change deeply
nested lists around). However, some people desire a marker element for
that very purpose (citing legal text as one example where it's
needed):

    <ol>
    <li><m>1.</m> Stir</li>
    <li><m>2.</m> Beat</li>
    </ol>

I don't have much of an opinion on that. Usually the marker isn't
important to me; although Etan Wexler made a good argument for it
<http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-html/2003Feb/0093.html> on
this list:

    The typical argument for the 'value' attribute states that the
    list numbering is an essential part of the content and is not
    merely style. If we accept this argument, it follows that we want
    an element type dedicated to list item markers, bringing all the
    usual benefits (easy styling, ability to add metadata,
    internationalization, better degradation to plain text).
    
I don't know what to tell you, if you truly believe italic text is
essential to the meaning of your documents. Maybe you should give HTML
3.2 <http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html32.html> a whirl.

-- 
John Lewis
Received on Wednesday, 21 May 2003 17:52:01 GMT

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