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Re: Proposal: "text-transform" property revision

From: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2007 19:07:26 +0100
Message-ID: <470E665E.8060801@googlemail.com>
To: Brad Kemper <brkemper@comcast.net>
CC: W3C Emailing list for WWW Style <www-style@w3.org>

Brad Kemper wrote:

>> Brad Kemper wrote:
>>> I don't think it is any further out of line with CSS purpose than the 
>>> other text transformation values that exist today ("capitalize", 
>>> "uppercase", "lowercase").
>> I disagree. Those are clearly intended to be styling commands, not 
>> data-cleansing commands.
> Well, if purity is more important than usefulness (tempered by 
> implementation difficulty), then maybe, although it seems like a pretty 
> fine line separating them in this case. If I want the style of my text 
> to be lowercase except for the first letter of each word, that is a 
> styling command that is going to be much more useful most of the time 
> than, say, "lowercase".

I think that it's more or less useless as a /purely/ styling command, 
because the results will almost invariably look "wrong". By contrast, 
the existing "capitalize" value at least preserves the case of acronyms 
and initialisms. Can you point to any examples of people choosing such a 
lowercase-then-capitalize-first-letter style (including acronyms or 
initialisms!) for a purely aesthetic purpose?

> And the fact that the proposed new keyword does 
> NOT deal with initialisms and names with apostrophes and such is proof 
> that it is NOT a robust data cleansing routine, but rather something to 
> make certain texts more readable, and therefore within the realm of 
> visual style.

I didn't say it was a robust data cleansing routine; my point was 
precisely that's what needed for your use-case is a robust data 
cleansing routine not a simple style rule.

>> The underlying HTML can be separated from the CSS, for example for 
>> exposure to assistive technologies, without losing content 
>> information. See also:
>> http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20-CSS-TECHS/#F2
>> In the HTML layer, text should be in "natural" case... [clipped]
> The link you provided makes a good case for not doing something like 
> this in the HTML layer, which in one of my earlier examples, is exactly 
> what I had to resort to in order to improve readability (I had to 
> transform the case, and could not catch 100% of the times that would 
> cause an improper initialism). Had I the ability to use CSS for this, 
> then the HTML layer used for assistive technologies would have been 
> unaffected, and we could all complain together about the problems of the 
> data layer at that point (which would have exactly zero effect, believe 
> me).

I can't follow your line of argument here. A crude attempt at cleaning 
the HTML layer, although doubtless not 100% effective, is likely to be 
more effective when performed by authors than by consuming agents 
because authors tend to have more awareness of the knowledge domain the 
content is dealing with.

> But the ability to transform the case of the text via CSS to make it 
> more readable would have been useful. I would also like to add here that 
> using "lowercase" or "uppercase" as a style command would have had an 
> equally deleterious effect as the proposed "title-case" keyword. 
> Abbreviations like "IT" and "IS" would be misconstrued as "it" and "is" 
> in lowercase, and would be ambiguous in uppercase. The same problem 
> would apply to all acronyms that are also meaningful words. So I don't 
> think the similar effect a "title-case" keyword would have on such words 
> should really be an argument against its use.

My impression is that people use "lowercase" for a cute aesthetic effect 
and "uppercase" for emphasis: readability doesn't enter into it and 
these values do their job well. I suspect "capitalize" only scales if 
you use class to exclude unimportant words from its scope. I've never 
wanted to capitalize all first letters of all words regardless of 

>> I sympathize with your plight! However, I don't think it's the purpose 
>> of CSS to fix this problem any more than it's the purpose of CSS to 
>> correct spelling or provide missing alternative text for images. Data 
>> problems must be fixed in the data layer, or it's not a real fix.
> Yes, and in an ideal world, they would be, perhaps. I don't think this 
> really is equivalent to fixing spelling. The text in all caps is just as 
> valid (from a language/grammar point of view) as it would be if it had 
> had the "capitalize" transformation applied to it. rather, it is
> something that would help with the presentation of text to match a usage 
> style, just as with the other transformation keywords. And since it 
> essentially combines the effects of two existing keywords to do 
> something that people would find very useful (I would argue more useful, 
> more often, than those keywords by themselves)

Without wishing to go round in circles (sorry!), I think people would 
only imagine it to be useful because of corruptions in their data layer, 
but it's not an effective fix for such corruption. Can you point to any 
use-case that isn't based on data corruption?

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis
Received on Thursday, 11 October 2007 18:07:37 UTC

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