W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > April 2007

argument for deprecating BLOCKQUOTE in canonical HTML/XHTML

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net>
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2007 16:08:00 -0500
To: public-html@w3.org
Message-Id: <20070402205544.M61590@hicom.net>

1. why deprecate BLOCKQUOTE?

A) it is misused as presentational markup;

B) it is a presentational model taken from print 
conventions, rather than semantic meaning.  if Q was 
ubiquitously implemented, one could use styling rules 
to create a Q instance with the properties of a block 
quotation - that is, as a paragraph indented at least 
5em on both left and right margins;

C) BLOCKQUOTE has no semantic meaning - it is 
merely one means of many of demarcating any quote 
an arbitrary number of sentences long.

D) a quote is a quote is a quote - how it is 
demarcated as a quote is a presentational matter;
what is important is that the material be logically 
and consistently marked up, so why have 2 forms of 
QUOTE, when only one is needed?

E) as a user of non-visual renderers, i would 
greatly appreciate my screen reader letting me 
know where a quote begins and where it ends, no 
matter how large or small the QUOTE, if i am to 
cite the quote, or go to the target at which it 
points, i have to know where it begins and ends, 
not whether it is indented and presented in a 
specific styling; this is part and parcel of my 
argument, outlined in my proposal for reforming 
the Q element: a user agent should recognize a 
quote when it encounters one, and apply aural 
or screen or print media selectors so that the 
end user knows where the quotation begins and 
where it ends; this is why i believe that 
emphatic quotes should be marked up using the 
EM element, and styled, if the author so desires, 
through the use of CSS-generated quotation marks;

F) BLOCKQUOTE, is - by definition - 
presentational in nature, and is used as a 
presentational, rather than a semantic element 
of document design slash implementation.  the 
print convention of seperating a quote of more 
than 3 sentences in a block of text, seperated 
from the main text by blank lines at top and 
bottom, with twice the whitespace on left and 
right margins, than the main text.  there is 
NOTHING semantically sensible about preserving 
BLOCKQUOTE, as a quote is a quote is a quote - 
what is important to the renderer is where does 
the quote begin and where does the quote end, so 
that appropriate style rules can be applied, 
either by default, specified by the author or 
subject to a client side styling rule; thus, it 
is up to the author, using CSS, to define the 
presentational characteristics a quote will 
take, if that author wishes to replicate the 
print convention of a BLOCKQUOTE.  the only 
thing that seperates a BLOCKQUOTE from a Q 
(quote) is how it is rendered by a user agent; 
despite its distinctive styling, a quote is 
still a quote, is still a quote, and canonical 
HTML/XHTML should recognize that simple fact.

G) Q itself MUST be reformed, with the attribute
SRC replacing the current definition of the CITE
attribute (a target URI from which the quote is 
taken, and the re-definition of the CITE 
attribute, to enable human-readable citations, 
as outlined in:

2. lingering issues (feel free to add any):

A) Quotes will need to be nested within one 
another, for often one quotes a source which, in 
turn, quotes a third party; is redefining the Q 
element as neither an inline nor block element, 
but as a "flow" element, equal to this task?

B) the Q element is defined in XHTML Strict as an 
inline element, but it will either need to be 
contained in the P element when used to indicate 
an extended quotation, or - optimally - the other 
way around, so that Q can be used inline, for 
brief quotations, as well as for extended 
quotations, such as dialogue from a play, 
citations from legal documents, or the use of 
a partial quote as part of contextualizing 
text which leads to an extended quote.

<!-- begin example of Q as both an inline and a block element -->
<!-- string of intro text with a --><Q src="" cite=""></Q> 
<!-- nested in it, leading to an extended quote -->

<Q src="" cite="">

<!-- end example of Q as both an inline and a block element -->

here is the barebones outline above with some flesh on the 
skeleton, as well as illustrating the possibility of using a 
for/id association with the source contained in a CITE 

for="q17>Conscious of our many problems,</Q>; Edison continued,

<P class="indented-quote">
>I seek today to lay a foundation to our public policy. My 
fundamental purpose is to devote my term of office to raising 
the standard of public service in New Jersey.  I want to say 
here and now, that I demand unshakable integrity of every 
State employee.

Edison proceeded to assure the legislature that, as governor, he 
for="q17">seek to cooperate with it in the advancement of the 
public interest</Q>, and pledged to predicate his exercise 
of gubernatorial authority

upon the principle of promoting the common good. We all know that 
heavy demands are placed upon each one of us to play politics. We 
know also, that delay and obstruction of governmental action is 
the only certain result when that game is started.

I am confident that this legislature will rise above partisan 
bickering, especially after the public promises its members made 
last fall, and that it will demonstrate a high capacity for civil 

Edison then renewed his pledge to <Q 
for="q17">exert every effort to reduce public expenses</Q>, 
and called upon <Q 
for="q17">all public officials in the State and local governments</Q> 
to do likewise.

<!-- ... -->


<cite id="q17">Edison Inaugural Discuss Labor, Education, Reform; 
Calls Defense First Concern; Will Ask Legislation to Protect 
Production Program in State; Text of Governor Edison's Message. 
(Newark Evening News, January 21, 1941; pages 1,7)</cite>

ABSURDITY, n.  A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with 
one's own opinion.      -- Ambrose Bierce (The Devils' Dictionary)
               Gregory J. Rosmaita, oedipus@hicom.net
Received on Monday, 2 April 2007 21:08:39 UTC

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