Re: Cleaning House

Murray Maloney wrote:

> Hmmm. Not so hasty. You can't actually say that it has no meaning.
> The reason is that you have not examined the profile that is associated
> with that HTML document -- because I didn't provide a pointer.
> The thing is, my profile says that when class="ship" the meaning is the
> name of a ship, which happens to formatted in italic typeface by convention
> when it is available.

> Italic text is emphasized.

Don't you think there is strictly a difference between distinguishing 
some text from surrounding text with italics and emphasizing text? For 
example, when italic is used for book, movie, journal, play titles, 
foreign phrases, taxonomical terms, technical terms, and ship names you 
wouldn't necessarily apply a verbal stress to the same terms (you might 
sometimes, but not always). This difference is not some 
"neo-semanticist" fantasy; it's a common distinction in print 
publishing. For instance, the Oxford Style Guide (ISBN 0-19-869175-0) 
introduces italic like this (p. 154):

"Italic type is a typographic variation of ordinary roman that is used 
to indicate emphasis or heavy stress in speech; to style titles, 
headings, indexes, and cross-references generally; and to indicate 
foreign words and phrases."

If emphasis really was all italic is for, then everything after 
"emphasis" would have been superfluous. When the Guide goes on to say 
(p. 155) that we should "Employ italics sparingly for emphasis, since 
their unrestrained use can seem startling or precious" it's clearly not 
trying to discourage us from using italics for ship names!

A little earlier on p. 154, the Guide says: "In most contexts, roman 
type is the standard face used for text matter, though it can be 
distinguished, for reasons of emphasis, additional clarity, or common 
convention, through the use of other typographic styles and forms." Note 
there are three reasons. Many rationales for italic seem to fall into 
the later categories. As you yourself say above, ship names are italic 
"by convention".

> What is the difference between <i>term</i> and <em>term</em>?

In HTML 4.01 as specified: the first is a term with a font style, the 
second is a term the author has emphasized. In text/html in the wild, 
the discernible difference is minimal, unless like Gregory you're in the 
habit of writing your own CSS.

>> > I have been layering semantics onto the CLASS attribute and REL/REV 
>> since
>> > 1993.
>>   With support from which standard?
> Let's see, we used REL/REV in 1993 based on HTML 1.0.
> We used CLASS since it was introduced in 1996, I think.
> That is when SoftQuad developed HoTMetaL Intranet Publisher.

The HTML 4.01 standard could be interpreted to authorize this, though 
not explicitly.

Class may be used for "general purpose processing by user agents".

User agents may use a profile URI to "perform some activity based on 
known conventions for that profile. For instance, search engines could 
provide an interface for searching through catalogs of HTML documents, 
where these documents all use the same profile for representing catalog 

On the other hand, HTML user agents aren't required to recognize 
additional semantics from profiles, so Tina's UA would probably be 
within its "rights" by the HTML 4.01 "contract" to ignore 
class="shipName" when trying to interpret <i>.

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis

Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 17:09:30 UTC