[XML 1.1] Allowable element names

XML 1.1 is in last call awaiting comments on or before 28 June:

A question has been raised about whether there should be restrictions on what
characters can be used in element and attribute names, and if so what kind of

The issue comes about particularly when people are going to edit XML. If they
can't determine the name of an element or an attribute (for example if it is
a symbolic character or collection of them, rather than a recognisable word)
then they will not be able to work with the XML language. For example, screen
readers do not necessarily have a capacity to present math characters or
"dingbats" - symbols like smiley faces that exist in unicode as characters,
and music notes may not be meaningful to people who are Deaf. Likewise, it is
important for international usage that arabic or chinese or thai characters
can be used by people whose natural writing script is one of those (and so on
for other scripts).

Some thoughts have been suggested. Broadly there are a couple of different
approaches, although there are also intermediary possibilities.

1. There should be restrictions that require names to come from a single
range of characters used in a single language, and should be based on
meaningful words (this could be enforced by requiring a dictionary lookup).

2. It is fine to use any characters, since authoring tools can allow the
editor to assign their own version of the name for local use - i.e. doing a
search and replace before beginning, or whenever an unusable name is
encountered, and then convert those back to the required characters on

A possible intermediate position is that an XML language must have a schema
which provides an annotation that can be used as an alternative name, or
documentation so the authorr can understand the purpose of the element and
provide a name useful to them.

This has implications for and relationship to the XML accessibility
Guidelines - http://www.w3.org/WAI/PF/XML - as well as for authoring tool
accessibility guidelines and internationalisation.

The PFWG has decided to continue its discussions in public, to enable the
public working groups to easily join the discussion and see the issues.


Charles McCN

Received on Wednesday, 19 June 2002 20:16:05 UTC