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Re: Draft suggestion: "normal" needed

From: Laurens Holst <lholst@students.cs.uu.nl>
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2005 16:41:20 +0200
Message-ID: <42D7CB10.4020007@students.cs.uu.nl>
To: Mike-GBHXonline <mikecherim@gbhxonline.com>, www-html@w3.org

Mike-GBHXonline schreef:
> Hello Laurens,
> I'm absolutely right on target with this, and I managed to convince some 
> very big names in the web standards movement of this need so please hear 
> me out here. I will try to explain this in a more understandable way:
> Of course I can use CSS to lend a visual cue to <em> within <i>, that's 
> not the issue. But tell me, what does one see when CSS is unsupported or 
> has styles disabled, or they are using their own style sheet? That's 
> right. We've lost value and meaning.

Neither <i> nor <normal> have or would have meaning, they only convey a 
presentation, not semantics. So who are you to critisise :).

Anyways, I don’t agree - emphasis within emphasis could indicate more 
emphasis, if there is an appropriate case. There is nothing in the 
specification that says this cannot be. If you want specific visual 
representation for that, you should so that with CSS, there is nothing 
wrong with that.

Existing user agents might mark up nested <em>s with either normal 
style, oblique style, or just italics style making it indistinguishable 
to the eye of the user (the latter of which most probably do, but that 
doesn’t make it right). In any case, the semantics, and therefore the 
ability to express it, are still there.

> In the print world a thought is to be written as italic text. Not as a 
> quote, but simply italicized. This is the/ standard/ in the print world! 
> Thus, when an author wants to provide emphasis within that body of 
> italicized text, he or she make that word or group of words non-italic. 
> Normal. Not bold, they would only do that if the meaning was strong 
> emphasis. Look at some novels and you will see exactly what I mean. I'm 
> talking about a/ standard/ universally accepted and widely used.

That may be so, but nevertheless it is NOT semantic. An element such as 
<thought> would be appropriate.

Also, it may be the standard in the print world, but if I want to be the 
odd duck and style my thoughts in a non-standard way (e.g. bold with a 
yellow background), I should not have to change the markup for that.

> So, to put something like that on the web, a story or screenplay, per 
> se, with some "thought" content we italicize. So far so good, we can 
> write <i></i> and that is valid and semantically correct (not <em>). 
> This is true of those with assistive technologies, visual browsers, the 
> works. With styles on or not... no matter. 

I’m not saying that you should use <em> when it is not emphasis. Sorry 
if I misunderstood you.

In HTML, use <span class="thought"> then. That is just as meaningless as 
<i> is, except that doesn’t convey a specific presentation.

> <p><i>A good example is needed</i>, he thought.</p>
> /A good example is needed,/ he thought.

Right, I gather that <em> is not what you wanted there :). Anyways, HTML 
does not have an element for ‘thought’, to my knowledge, so it is 

With regard to your statement "But tell me, what does one see when CSS 
is unsupported or has styles disabled, or they are using their own style 
sheet?" earlier, the answer to that is: nothing, because HTML does not 
define markup for ‘thought’. Simple.

Using <i> for that purpose is just abuse. And suggesting to introduce 
<normal> of all things (!) is even worse, instead you should address the 
actual problem: find or search a replacement for <i> itself, to mark up 
thoughts. And mark up emphasis inside just as usual with <em>.

> So, now let's emphasize a word within that body. Not strong emphasis, 
> but light emphasis, instead. Strong emphasis is supplied to us already. 
> So, visually we must /not/ italicize that word -- thus putting 
> <em></em> makes it drop from sight for the sighted visitor. Meaning and 
> value: gone! To those with assistive technologies, they get it. They 
> hear the emphasis.

Well then:

.thought { font-style: italic; }
.thought em { font-style: normal; }

> However, if there was a reverse or normal emphasis, we could use that 
> and thus the sighted and not sighted could get the emphasis out of the 
> thought. So, I suggest a new element, let's call it <nem> instead of 
> <normal>. It's more accurate, perhaps.
> <p><i>A <nem>great</nem> example is needed</i>, he thought.</p>
> /A /great/ example is needed,/ he thought.
> *Proposed Element and Rule:* /<nem>/ - /Normal emphasis/. To be used as 
> a method of providing light emphasis within a body of italicized text. 
> Typically used by writers to indicate passages of thought or reflection.

That’s great. But there is no single reason that you cannot use <em> for 
that. You are not looking at the cause of the problem.

> I cannot do that with CSS and retain value to all visitors. Think of a 
> table's "colspan" if that works for you. And simply not italicizing the 
> emphasized word to show emphasis doesn't do it for the non-sighted.

<em> does not necessarily have to be styled italic...

> Look, I'm not wasting my time, nor am I wasting yours. If there wasn't a 
> real need here, a loophole within the spec, then I wouldn't be asking 
> for this. But that's not the case. And please... nested <em</em>s?! What 
> on earth are you thinking. First of all you're telling me to use <em> 
> not for emphasis but the style text italic. Please, spare me. I should 
> use <i>, not <em>, and as explained, if one puts <em> with the <i>, the 
> unsighted get it but the sighted do not.

If you are going to address me in this way, I do not think I want to 
have this conversation.

I made a simple mistake in that I confused your ‘thought’ markup with 
simple emphasis. But then again, you did the same, by confusing emphasis 
with either <i>, <normal> and <nem>. And by confusing thought with <i>.

And you weren’t exactly explicit about that in your original message. I 
do not think it is odd that talk of <i>, <normal>, and a message sent in 
wild colours and fonts, causes me to think that it is sent by someone 
who is still stuck in the era of tables and spacer images, and needs 
some explanation about semantics. And not unrightly so, it seems.

> Please reconsider this.

I am not pulling the strings here.

> As I said, I've managed to make some of the 
> biggest names in the web standards movement realize that this /is/ a 
> legitimate need. Quite simply because it is -- there are simply no 
> options available in order to do this correctly so /all /visitors get 
> the meaning or value. The element /is/ needed, of this I am 100% 
> certain.

I recognise the need, but do not think your solution is a good one.

> I do suggest passing this email around to those who decide and 
> this email likely explains it in more depth.

I will forward it to the www-html mailinglist.

> Don't make me have to start quoting Tim Berners Lee on the universality 
> of the world wide web for you.

Calm down.


Ushiko-san! Kimi wa doushite, Ushiko-san nan da!!
Received on Friday, 15 July 2005 14:42:18 UTC

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