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Re: Cleaning House

From: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Date: Sun, 06 May 2007 18:43:38 +0100
Message-ID: <463E13CA.6000001@googlemail.com>
To: Murray Maloney <murray@muzmo.com>
CC: Philip & Le Khanh <Philip-and-LeKhanh@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>, www-html@w3.org, public-html@w3.org

Murray Maloney wrote:

> We seem to be a having a real problem with semantics.

Dog bites man.

> Italics are a form of emphasis in Western publishing.

We need to distinguish between two notions of "emphasis": (1) visual 
markers that distinguish one bit of text from another and (2) authors 
stressing particular words or parts of a document. I think the web 
standards movement assumes that <em> and <strong> relate to (2) whereas 
<i> and <b> relate to (1). For random examples dredged up with a search 
engine, see:

http://htmlhelp.com/reference/html40/phrase/em.html

http://campus.leeds.ac.uk/guidelines/accessibility/tags.htm

http://www.simplebits.com/notebook/2004/02/29/simplequiz_part_xiii_empholdics_conclusion.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/newmedia/technical/semantic_markup.shtml

http://universalusability.com/access_by_design/text/structure.html

This seems to be a reasonable assumption, given HTML 4.01's turn towards 
semantic markup, given WCAG's discussion of how em and strong imply 
"structural emphasis", and given common dictionary definitions of emphasis:

WCAG: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-HTML-TECHS/#text-emphasis

Mirriam-Websters: http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/emphasis

Cambridge Dictionary of American English: 
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=emphasis*1+0&dict=A

Compact Oxford: http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/emphasis?view=uk

This seems to be the sense in which the Oxford Style Guide (the British 
equivalent of the Chicago Manual of Style) uses "emphasis" too. By this 
usage, /one/ use of italics is to signify emphasis in Western 
publishing, but that does not make italics /only/ a form of emphasis.

I don't have a Chicago Manual to hand, but its table of contents 
suggests it likewise makes a conceptual distinction between italics 
generally and italics used for emphasis:

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/ch07/ch07_toc.html

--
Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis
Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 17:43:48 GMT

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