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Re: Cleaning House

From: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Date: Mon, 07 May 2007 00:07:09 +0100
Message-ID: <463E5F9D.5050203@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:

> Will somebody help me out here? I don't know how I can be any clearer
> about fact that italic and bold are merely forms of emphasis, and 
> therefore, <i> and <b> are synonyms for <em> and <strong>.

The problem is that other people are reading the HTML specification with 
a different, common-usage definition of emphasis supported by typical 
print style guides, ordinary dictionaries, and much of the web standards 
movement, not a specialized typographical definition of emphasis. What 
you need to do is to demonstrate that this alternate definition does 
/not/ apply to HTML specifications. One way you could do that would be 
to dredge up old debates to show the mentality of the creators of those 
specifications at the time. But a quick look at the www-talk archives 
suggests that the idea of "semantic", "generic", "logical" emphasis as 
opposed to <i> and <b>, and the idea of non-emphatic uses for italics, 
was alive and well back in early 1994:


Particularly telling is Bill Janssen's contribution (#3575), just as 
cogent today:

> As I've noted in other circumstances, most of English literature has
> gotten along with a *very* small set of procedural markup -- basically
> italics and left and right margins.  Italics are used for basically two
> purposes (though Fowler's _Modern English Usage_ cites 8 usages, these
> can be grouped into just two major categories):  emphasis and
> alternate-usage (such as ship names, foreign words, book titles,
> newspaper names, variable or type names in programming languages).
> Sometimes capitalization, bold face, or underlining is used to convey
> alternate-usage.  (The only real use for margins is to indicate
> quotations or excerpted material.)  But what realling needs to be
> communicated is not <B>, but rather <ALTERNATE-USAGE>, not <I>, but
> <EMPHASIS>.  There are no agreed-upon conventions as to when bold face
> is used in a document -- so you can't tell what it means if someone
> sends you a document that merely says <B>.  That's the crucial
> difference between descriptive and procedural markup.

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis
Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 23:07:16 UTC

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