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

Re: Cleaning House

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Mon, 7 May 2007 11:40:18 -0700
Message-Id: <63E30615-B533-403E-A9D7-4E161EFD86BF@apple.com>
Cc: Philip & Le Khanh <Philip-and-LeKhanh@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>, public-html@w3.org
To: Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>

On May 6, 2007, at 11:16 PM, Jonas Sicking wrote:

> Jonas Sicking wrote:
>> Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>>> For HTML, there is no significant distinction in attested use  
>>> between <em> and <i>. In practice they are used in the same kinds  
>>> of contexts. However, there is a nominal difference in the spec.
>> What do you base this on?
>> I have seen <i> used for a range of things, most commonly to  
>> indicate emphasis or to indicate quoting. In other words my  
>> experience has been that people use it when they want italics  
>> which can be desired for a number of things.
>> OTOH I haven't seen <em> used nearly as much so I can't really say  
>> what people are using it for. The few uses I have seen though has  
>> been by people that care about semantic correctness and has  
>> explicitly wanted to indicate emphasis.
> I should add that what I'm arguing for is that we leave the spec as  
> it is. The current spec gives the most useful, as well as true to  
> how they are currently used, description of <b>, <i>, <em>, and  
> <strong> that I've seen anywhere.

I'm fairly satisfied with the current spec language. But if I were to  
change it, I would say that <b> and <i> MAY be used for emphasizing  
bold and italic, but SHOULD NOT be, in favor of <em> and <string>.  

1) They are already used this way, and have been since before <em>  
existed; the attempt to outlaw emphasizing use of these elements has  

2) A WYSIWYG editor will likely only have one italic button, and it  
would be inappropriate for it to ask you whether your italics are  
meant to emphasize, so in such cases <i> is the only practical option.

But I also think it doesn't matter a whole lot either way.

 From another message:

>> There are some WYSIWYG web editing tools that insert <em></em>  
>> when you hit the [/I/] button or otherwise select italics -- I  
>> believe DreamWeaver is one of them. This alone makes it pretty  
>> likely that there's a significant amount of content out there  
>> using <em> for non-italic emphasis. I suspect there are also some  
>> authors who use <em> in place of <i> always, because they've heard  
>> it's more semantic.
> Ugh, that is really unfortunate. I guess what we can do to fix this  
> is to explicitly state in the spec or a primer that this is a bad  
> practice. And that wysiwyg editors should either use <i> or CSS for  
> buttons that request italics. Same thing for other visual elements  
> of course.

I agree that the spec should make this recommendation.

Received on Monday, 7 May 2007 18:40:35 UTC

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