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Re: Underline element.

From: Patrick Garies <pgaries@fastmail.us>
Date: Wed, 02 Jan 2008 03:52:31 -0600
Message-ID: <477B5EDF.8080401@fastmail.us>
To: Karl Dubost <karl@w3.org>
CC: public-html@w3.org

Karl Dubost wrote:
> # Use of Underline
>
> Example from OCLC for styling citation.
> http://worldcatlibraries.org/oclc/71752287?page=citation&client=worldcat.org-detailed_record 
>
> MLA style for source recommends to underline title of books. And it 
> was done in the html as:
>     <ul><li class="citation">Kawauchi, Rinko. <U>Cui cui</U>. Tokyo: 
> Foil, 2005. </li></ul>

I was under the impression that both underlining and italicization were 
acceptable with underlining used in handwritten documents and 
italicization preferred in typed documents. Wikipedia seems to confirm 
that italicization of the title is, at least, an alternative. [1] I 
can’t confirm at the source though since MLA wants you to buy their book 
to get their style information.

That aside, I don’t see how the meaning changes if you just use a span 
element and associate CSS with it. I’m not an expert in use of the cite 
element, but I think that this might be a correct use for that too (and, 
assuming so, would probably be more meaningful than an underline or span 
element). Either would also be a bit more flexible * since you could, 
for example, switch between the MLA and Turabian styles (both noted in 
your reference) by only touching a style sheet.

* I’ve assumed that one finds an underline element with something like 
the text-decoration: none declaration applied to be disagreeable since 
it runs counter to the nature of the element.

Karl Dubost wrote:
> # site advocating against
>
>     9. Avoid using underlined text.
>
>     Even more distracting than boldface text is underlined
>     text, which is a typographic abomination that should be
>     avoided. Back in the days of typewriters, underlining
>     was the accepted, if not only way to add emphasis.
>     Unfortunately, this carried over into the design of
>     operating systems, explaining why we have Underline
>     commands under our Format menus when we never use the
>     feature. When typesetting, underlined text is only used
>     in special situations such as financial or academic
>     publications. It is also common in the design of web
>     pages.
>
>     -- Rules of Typography: Part V
>     http://www.fontsite.com/Pages/RulesOfType/ROT0298.html
>     Tue, 17 Apr 2007 23:38:36 GMT

This entire document is pretty much irrelevant since it doesn’t provide 
any insight into whether or not the underline element is merely 
presentational or meaningful. It only comments on aesthetics (and, I’ll 
note, makes several fallacious arguments against use of underlining as a 
text effect). The visual example shown in the referenced document shows 
the names of people being underlined, which, IMO, doesn’t add additional 
meaning to a document particularly since it’s not an established convention.

[1] 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_MLA_Handbook_for_Writers_of_Research_Papers
Received on Wednesday, 2 January 2008 09:52:49 UTC

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