Re: Cleaning House

Bold and italic are typographical traditions that are used for many 
different purposes. They could be used to *highlight* certain phrases, 
including sub-headings, foreign words, etc. as well as for emphasis. The 
term *emphasis* is more generic, and can also apply to speech -- there 
is no *italic* in speech!
The terms are not as important as the concepts.
HTML may have (deprecated) elements such as *b* and *i* as well as *em*, 
but the first two are typographical, which should be handled with a 
style sheet. Whether *em* should map to either *b* or *i* is merely 
another convention. If yes, it is also typographical, and should be 
handled by a stylesheet. If *em* should include the vocal emphasis for 
speech synthesisers, it is still a matter for a style sheet.
This debate has been side-tracked -- it started off with the question of 
whether these features should be handled by an HTML element, or by a 
style sheet.

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis wrote:

> Murray Maloney wrote:
>> So you will agree that marked-up phrases in HTML are distinguished
>> and that only some of them are /emphasized/.
> Yep.
>>>> - Bold and Italic are forms of emphasis.
>>> Not generally no. Even if Wikipedia is accurately reflecting the 
>>> actual usage of the term among typographers, I think ordinary 
>>> dictionary definitions are more cogent when trying to agree how an 
>>> ordinary author or developer would understand the HTML specifications.
>> Sorry. I need help here. We looked at definitions of "emphasis".
>> How can you fail to accept that bold and italic fonts,
>> shouts and whispers, and lights blinking and sirens wailing are all 
>> legitimate forms of emphasis?
> We seem to be struggling over the word "forms". Let me pull back and 
> try restating my position. Sometimes bold and italic are used to 
> distinguish a phrase as more important than the surrounding text. 
> Sometimes they are used to demarcate a phrase as /different/ to 
> surrounding text (e.g. ship names, foreign phrases). In both cases 
> they are forms of typographical emphasis (Wikipedia's sense of 
> emphasis). Only in the first case are they expressions of stress 
> emphasis (the common-usage sense of emphasis). The question is which 
> of those two definitions is relevant to <em>. Are you with me so far?
> Now its very existence suggests that <em> has some purpose beyond <i>; 
> and the early discussion from www-talk I quoted demonstrated that this 
> difference between stress emphasis and other uses of italic and bold 
> was recognized by the correspondents. So I don't think associating 
> <em> with the stress emphasis is unreasonable.
>>>> - It is widely understood by practitioners that systems may render 
>>>> bold and italic using other typographic devices if bold and italic 
>>>> are unavailable (or undesirable for whatever reason.
>>> Who are "practitioners"? I doubt the majority of HTML content 
>>> authors realize this.
>> Dan and Chris and , do you think that everybody does or should know
>> that <b> and <i> can be presented using any CSS styling available to 
>> other inlines?
> That's not the same thing. A lot of HTML authors (though still 
> probably not the majority if you think about user-generated content 
> and HTML email authors) are aware that elements can be transformed by 
> CSS. What most of them don't think about is fallbacks and user 
> settings, which is what I thought you were talking about ("if bold and 
> italic are unavailable or undesirable"). Witness the general 
> assumptions that people can see images, can tell the difference 
> between colors, have screens of a certain size, use Internet Explorer 
> or Firefox, have JavaScript enabled, etc.
>> I am qualified to say that you can redefine <b> to red and <i> to green
>> and aural and Braille readers can ignore or re-map them too.
> Of course. Although because <i> can be used without stress and <em> is 
> often misused without stress, many aural and braille remappings will 
> be erroneous. I doubt most authors know about such remappings though.
>>>> If you really think that you get more semantic value out of <em> than
>>> > <i>, and you don't understand that you can use CLASS to enhance 
>>> the semantic
>>>> value of any element, then the markup world is in real trouble.
>>> Rather more important than my views is a web standards movement that 
>>> widely believes you can "get more semantic value out of <em> than 
>>> <i>" (at least, if you discount widespread bad authoring practices).
>> Such beliefs are tantamount to religion and magic.
> That belief is based on an evidence-based idea that italic can be used 
> for purposes other than stress. By interpreting "emphasis" in the HTML 
> specification to mean "stress", it /may/ have gone awry however. Maybe 
> (since you were there) you'd care to recollect for us /why/ <em> was 
> introduced in the first place, seeing as <i> was already allowed to 
> fallback to non-italic representations?
> -- 
> Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis

Dr Jacques Steyn
Head: School of IT
Monash South Africa

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Received on Monday, 7 May 2007 10:06:25 UTC