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RE: Bold vs Strong

From: <chagnon@pubcom.com>
Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2018 15:28:29 -0400
To: "'w3c-wai-ig'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <02c001d42e84$d24efe20$76ecfa60$@pubcom.com>
Great question, Janina.

The concept of tags to indicate when text is italicized and bolded goes back
to the mid- to late-1990s, if I recall correctly. 20 years ago.

The idea was how could we convey the visual formatting we were putting on
certain words for certain purposes. Both bold and italics are used to
emphasize words, or stress them if they are being spoken.

I know we also talked briefly about other uses of formatting, such as using
bold to format headings (usually, but not always), and using italics for all
sorts of text like publication titles, foreign words, medical and scientific
terms, citations, ship names, and many more. But that part of the discussion
faded and never went further.

All these uses are just conventions of American English grammar; British
grammar varies a bit, but is mostly the same.

I doubt think that the emphasis and strong tags have worked out as well as
we thought they would. One primary reason: how many assistive technologies
actually recognize and announce them? Another is just as you mentioned:
strong and emphasis can be swapped between bold and italics and it wouldn't
matter much to a screen reader user.

A bolded heading doesn't need to have the bold/strong information relayed
because the "importance of being bold" is implied in the Hx heading tags
themselves. But I'd like to see more tags based on usage, rather than visual
formatting; Tags for titles of publications, citations, foreign terms, etc.
I think those would be very beneficial to the our users because they convey
not just the visual formatting but also the intention or meaning of the

Any development in this area will need to go through the various standards
committees for WCAG, PDF/UA, EPUB, etc.

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-----Original Message-----
From: Janina Sajka <janina@rednote.net> 
Sent: Tuesday, August 7, 2018 1:57 PM

Phil, All:

I recognize WCAG has been suggesting that "strong" and "emphasis" are
semantic designations for many, many years.

May I ask where we got this definition? I can't seem to find any grammar
text that speaks of bold or italics using such terms. So, what's our

I'd like to know because I, myself, am constantly getting them confused in
my own mind. I don't have that same problem with bold or italic, even those
are type-faces I haven't seen for myself in decades.

Let me hasten to underscore my strong support for semantic markup. I'm just
not convinced these two terms are all that semantic. They strike me as
rather arbitrary. I could equally accept a definition that said bold equals
emphasis, and italics equals strong.

So, please educate me.

Received on Tuesday, 7 August 2018 19:28:56 UTC

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