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Re: Cleaning House

From: Murray Maloney <murray@muzmo.com>
Date: Sat, 05 May 2007 20:41:23 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: Tina Holmboe <tina@greytower.co.uk>
Cc: www-html@w3.org,public-html@w3.org

At 05:35 PM 5/5/2007 +0200, Tina Holmboe wrote:
>On Sat, May 05, 2007 at 09:10:19AM -0400, Murray Maloney wrote:
>   All right. Let's try this one more time?
> > The semantics* of <i> is emphasise with italic typeface.
> > The semantics* of <em> is emphasise, probably with italics
>   The I-element was introduced in HTML 2.0, and defined as follows:
>      "The <I> element indicates italic text."
>   This was reconfirmed in HTML 3.2, and in addition the
>   element was moved from the "Typographic Elements" section and
>   into "Font style". In HTML 4.0 and 4.01 the same is
>   true: the definition of <i> remain the same.

Ya, I was there for all of that. That doesn't change anything.

 From the June 1993 Internet Draft for HTML:

STRONG        Stronger emphasis, typically bold.
B               Boldface, where available, otherwise alternative mapping 
EM              Emphasis, typically italic.
I               Italic font (or slanted if italic unavailable).

If you really think that the difference between <i> and <em> is significant 
to call one of them semantic, then we have a long way to go before we get 
to actually
useful semantics. I defy you to draw any useful knowledge out of unadorned 
elements. But consider <i class="ship">.

In "HTML as she are spoke," <i> and <em> are synonyms for most intents and 

I don't think that we should be wasting time discussing whether <b> and <i> 
be deprecated and its practitioners sentenced to the fourth circle of hell. 
The plain
truth is that <b> and <i> are simply specializations of the emphasis <em> 
I think of <tt> as being a member of the de-emphasis class.

>   It is worth noting that in all three DTDs the I-element
>   is firmly placed in the %font entity. We can conclude
>   that it was and is meant to /change the font style to italics/.
>   There is, for all the arguments tossed at it, no semantic
>   interpretation defined /anywhere/.

That is not true. Any publication worth its salt will provide a semantic 
of sorts, either like a legend on a map, or as a set of typographic conventions
employed in the document. That is, the semantic binding is late, as it were.
Authors who employ <b> and <i> are usually attempting to ascribe some meaning
-- summarized in an accompanying legend.

I see no advantage to using <em> over <i>. That is largely because they 
both fall back
to an italic typeface in most graphical browsers. How an individual user 
chooses to receive
either, with CLASS adornments or not, is simply a matter of personal taste.

>   The EM-element, however, is different. It too was introduced
>   in HTML 2.0 under the section "Idiomatic Elements", and
>   defined as
>      "The <EM> element indicates an emphasized phrase ... "
>   This definition was reconfirmed in HTML 3.2 - with the
>   modifier "basic" added to "emphasis" - and again in
>   HTML 4.0 and 4.01.
>   Again we can conclude something regarding this element: it
>   is meant to convey /meaning/, not style, despite the way
>   it is commonly rendered in a graphical UA.

What meaning, beyond 'emphasised', can you ascribe to an <em> element?
Do you not see that there is no effective difference between <i> and <em>?

> > Additional semantics may be layered upon these elements by employing CLASS
> > attribute values. Such semantics may be interpreted by CSS or XSL or by 
> GRDDL-aware agents.

>   Not in HTML, no.

Why not?

I have been layering semantics onto the CLASS attribute and REL/REV since 1993.

If you think about it, there is not much difference among:

         <i class="ship">Titanic</i>
         <em class="ship>Titanic</em>
         <span class="ship>Titanic</span>

Small advantage to <i> and <em> because they would both offer italic 
emphasis as a
fallback even if the CSS stylesheet was not found (or not selected).

I don't understand what you think you are protecting by disavowing <i> and <b>.

I can't see what extra value there is in <em> and <strong>. They are pairs
of twins to me; names given by one analytical parent and one practical parent.
<i> and <b> have always been part of markup history because there is a need.

If you could find your way to agreeing that we only need a small set of 
we could move on to discussing how useful semantic tagging can be achieved
in the future.

Besides, if you don't recognize an element or have no default formatting 
for it,
you are free to ignore that element. Or better yet, you can write your CSS
to ignore <i> and <b> and any other element that you so choose. Why would
you want to take from others the right to use them?

How does my use of  <i> and <b> hurt you? Not in theory, but in practice.
I don't think that you can show that my use of <i> and <b> hurts you at all.
So then, why should you care whether I continue to use <i> and <b> when
I want as part of "the HTML as she are spoke."




Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 00:50:46 UTC

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