Re: <strong> is not equivalent to <em> <em>

fantasai wrote on Saturday, May 10, 2003 at 3:00:11 PM:

> You're missing the point. Nested emphasis means *nested* emphasis.

The em element indicates emphasis, which means nested em elements
indicate emphasised emphasis. That meaning will eventually equal and
then surpass the strength of strong emphasis. The question is when
that happens.

> The whole sentence is emphasized with respect to the surrounding
> text. Within that sentence, "turn off the light" is emphasized with
> respect to the emphasized text. This is why
>                     em { font-style: italic }
>                     em em { font-style: normal }
> makes sense.

Your argument relies on the desired style, where the second level of
emphasis negates the style of the first. But the visual rendering
doesn't affect the meaning. The common practice of indicating emphasis
inside emphasis in books doesn't translate perfectly well to markup
languages and style sheets, where things are done automatically
instead of by hand. If visual perfection is required, I don't think
CSS is the tool for the job. However, a more sophisticated style
language (or a later version of CSS) could accomplish the style you

As suggested earlier, to work around this problem the strong element
should probably be the equivalent of three em elements and not two.
Not only does this allow the above common style, but it also suits the
strong element's rarity and eases the transition to only em. Of
course, the real problem may be that people want a certain number of
em elements to "mean" bold. I'd be fine without any assurance of that,
and without any guideline as to what strong means in ems, since the
exact number probably varies depending on the desired style. To me,
it's all an increasing level of emphasis, and it should have been one
element from the start.

> If I write
>        I <em><em>don't</em></em> want to go there.
> the code indicates that "don't" is emphasized wrt the surrounding
> emphasized content which is emphasized wrt the rest of the sentence.
> This is not the same as
>        I <strong>don't</strong> want to go there.
> which means "don't" is emphasized wrt the surrounding text, but the
> emphasis is stronger than with <em>.

I don't agree at all with the surrounding text argument, which I can't
help but think is based entirely on the desired style above. The
visual result is that "don't" is not emphasised at all, but the markup
indicates that it's been emphasised twice. Since I derive meaning from
markup, not style, the above markup looks fine to me. The problem is
the style sheet, which provides a meaningless rendering in certain
situations. The limits of CSS may be the real problem--not that I'm

If I haven't said it already, I think it would be a good idea to
deprecate the strong element instead of removing it, to ease the
transition. People could continue using strong instead of changing
their ways.

John Lewis

Received on Saturday, 10 May 2003 20:44:45 UTC