W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-digipub-ig@w3.org > April 2016

Re: The HTML q element can sometimes be useful. Discuss.

From: John Cowan <cowan@mercury.ccil.org>
Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2016 12:29:34 -0400
To: Florian Rivoal <florian@rivoal.net>
Cc: ishida@w3.org, W3C Digital Publishing IG <public-digipub-ig@w3.org>, www International <www-international@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20160427162934.GA22458@mercury.ccil.org>
Florian Rivoal scripsit:

> So since we're mostly going to mark up quotes anyway, we might as well
> have a standard element for it rather than everybody using their span
> soup. And going through a document programmatically to extract quotes is
> also not a crazy thing to do, so here as well, dedicated markup helps.


> Like quotes, one could imagine generating the punctuation for a
> hypothetical sentence element.

Exactly the (counter)example I had in mind.  Let me digress a bit.  In the
beginning, punctuation marks *were* styling: a comma (not necessarily
looking like ",") was used to set off a _komma_ in the prose, and a
colon (not necessarily looking like ":") was used to set off a _kolon_.
See <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colon_(rhetoric)> for details.
In the same way, in the Little Book of Toxic Advice by Strunk & White,
"parenthesis" still means the words within the "(" and ")" marks.

But such marks have long ago migrated from styling to content, along with
sentence-ending punctuation.  That's a fait accompli we need to respect.

> But nobody does this. Maybe generating the punctuation for quote is
> just as silly, and we don't see it because we're all too used to the
> q element. 

I think it is as silly, and for the same reasons.  Variable styling of
blockquotes is normal, variable styling of inline quotations is normally
not.  They vary according to language, printing tradition, and outer
context, but unfortunately that variatioun is not reducible to something
CSS can handle, at least not easily today.  What's more, sometimes the
normal answer is wrong:  James Joyce's works use the leading-dash style
of quotation (no close quote), and his publishers have preserved this.

(Further digression:  The word "style" is confusing.  Spelling is a matter
of a publisher's style, but it is not a matter of styling in the sense
that anyone expects to be able to set a global switch that changes "labor"
to "labour" everywhere.  You have to go through the content and fix it.)

> quotation marks do change based on the styling of the document (more
> so for blockquote than for q, but still).

I'd like to see evidence for this in the case of inline quotations
in ordinary published work.  On the Web, people can do anything, including
decorating their prose with "under construction" signs.

> (2) Some other elements where quotes are in the markup, but identified
> so that you can replace them.
>   Markup:
>     <quote><oq>“</oq>something someone said<cq>”</cq></quote>
>   UA stylesheet: nothing

This seems like absurd overkill to me.  Put the quotation marks
outside the q element (they aren't part of the quotation) and
globally set the CSS to quote:none.

> (a) Is it important to have quotation marks if the markup is rendered
> without any styling at all?

Of course it is.  Is it important to have sentence-ending periods if
the markup is rendered without any styling?  Omitting quotation marks
altogether is very confusing, and can constitute plagiarism.  They are
as much part of the content as other punctuation marks.

My advice to authors, then:

1) Use hard quotation marks of the appropriate type for your language,
publishing tradition, and surrounding context.

2) If it's useful, use the q element to set off the quotation inside the
marks, with CSS quote:none to suppress browsers who think they know better.

John Cowan          http://www.ccil.org/~cowan        cowan@ccil.org
My corporate data's a mess!
It's all semi-structured, no less.
But I'll be carefree / Using XSLT
Received on Wednesday, 27 April 2016 16:30:00 UTC

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