The rules that get followed will be few and fewer

This is just a note about trends.  No change to a draft document is
contemplated or implied.  

The opportunity to act on this trend probably lies with WAI-PF more than
[sent separately to each]

Today's front-and-center feature article by Barbara Carlton in the Wall
Street Journal is a light piece, a chuckle about how punctuation is going
to the dogs.  Specifically, how quotation marks are abused, with a feeling
that this is happening more and more.

It is an amusing piece, but certainly naive as regards the evolution of
language.  The academics they quote are grammarians, not linguists.  I hope
that the WAI over the long haul can be more savvy than this author, because
we are certainly not amused.

What they observe is that quotation marks are used to set text off in
situations where "learned style" would have used some other mechanism, such
as italics, color, bold face or an up-tick in font size.  But it is always
where it is appropriate to set the text off somehow.  What they fail to
observe is that language recognizes both strict and broad interpretations
for post-lexical affects as well as for terms.  And that the upsurge of
"improper" usage is a direct result of the information technology
revolution, which has invented desktop publishing and opened expression in
print to a much larger segment of the population than was true before.  

When those who control what appears in print are a small group, and it
takes a lot of work per ultimately printed character, there can be more
discipline and custom applied with blue pencils.  When printing is a click
away and you can "just do it," impulse rules and more primitive principles
are all the structure that survives.

We can ask now for orthodoxy in the use of TABLE, BLOCKQUOTE, etc. because
if these things are used in strict form then it is easier for the client
software to adapt the presentation and preserve the information.  But in
the end we need to find out the new definitions that usage has decreed for
the object classes in the medium, and build our adaptive strategies around
that language model.  


Received on Monday, 15 March 1999 09:37:49 UTC