Re: part of my review of 3.12 Phrase elements (importance <strong> element)

On Fri, 20 Jul 2007 08:52:15 +0200, Robert Burns <> wrote:

> [...]
>> Yes there is, and people have been using <strong> for that (HTML4 had
>> nothing better). Other uses of <strong> are abuses because someone
>> once said "<b> and <i> are bad, use <strong> and <em> instead" and
>> authors still think first WISYWIG rather than WYMIWYG (What You Mean
>> Is What You Get)
> I agree. The WYSIWYG (I'm supposed to have it reviewed already, but I  
> haven't got there yet) section has a similar issue that you raise. Right  
> now the draft says:
> "Even WYSIWYG editors, however, should make every effort to use  
> appropriate semantic markup and avoid the use of media-specific  
> presentational markup."
> This is dangerous advice without further qualification. That is if a  
> WYSIWYG editor exposes controls to set text as bold, it should not under  
> any circumstances be using <strong> instead. (a common mistake among  
> WYSIWYG editors)  It is not semantic if the author meant bold and the  
> tool inserts "strong".

I think this is a lost cause. I also used to think that WYSIWYG editors  
should emit <b> instead of <strong> when the user indicates bold, and have  
tried to convince WYSIWYG editor vendors to change their behavior without  
success. I have since then realised that the benefit of trying to make a  
distinction between <b> and <strong> is marginal and the cost of changing  
the world to conform is high. <b> and <strong> are used interchangably in  
the wild, both because some WYSIWYG editors emit <b> and others emit  
<strong> for the same UI, and because many authors think <strong> is the  
new <b>. In practice, they are thus synonyms.

> I think the draft does too much of what you're saying. This doesn't  
> relate to strong, but the remaining presentational elements, but I think  
> we should simply be clear that <b>, <i>, <small>, <sup> and <sub> are  
> presentational elements. Don't try to hide that fact: that's simply what  
> they are. It's a counter-productive hyper-correction to try to  
> refine/redefine them into semantic elements so that we can say we're  
> fully semantic. [...]

Saying that an element is "presentational" gives semanticists the feeling  
that such elements must never be used. I don't think using the  
abovementioned elements when there is no other "semantic" element in HTML  
available is harmful. I also think it's appropriate for WYSIWYG editors to  
emit these elements instead of fiddling around with <span>+CSS. Using  
these elements has the advantage that non-CSS UAs get the right typography  
(bold, italics, small print, superscript and subscript often indicate  
something according to typographic conventions) so that users can  
understand the intended meaning from context (just like in print).

Using these elements for presentational *purposes* is harmful because it  
takes away the opportunity for non-visual UAs and ATs to indicate the  
attached typography change to the user. For example, in speech media, a UA  
might want to indicate that something is superscript, so that the user can  
work out what it represents. "2<sup>8</sup>" is different from  

Simon Pieters
Opera Software

Received on Friday, 20 July 2007 08:46:17 UTC