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Re: Cleaning House

From: Murray Maloney <murray@muzmo.com>
Date: Sun, 06 May 2007 17:00:44 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Cc: www-html@w3.org,public-html@w3.org

At 06:43 PM 5/6/2007 +0100, Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis wrote:
>Murray Maloney wrote:
>>Italics are a form of emphasis in Western publishing.
>We need to distinguish between two notions of "emphasis": (1) visual 
>markers that distinguish one bit of text from another and (2) authors 
>stressing particular words or parts of a document.

I am missing the distinction. How does one achieve (2) w/o simultaneously 
using (1).

>I think the web standards movement assumes that <em> and <strong> relate 
>to (2) whereas <i> and <b> relate to (1). For random examples dredged up 
>with a search engine, see:

Which says: "Since EM is a structural element, it carries meaning, making 
it preferable to font style elements such as I when emphasis is the 
intended meaning."

What the heck does that mean: "Since EM is a structural element, it carries 
I may not have a PhD, but that premise is meaningless to me. Always has been.
The URIs that you cited all propagate the myth that <em> is somehow 
semantic <i> is not.

>This seems to be a reasonable assumption, given HTML 4.01's turn towards 
>semantic markup, given WCAG's discussion of how em and strong imply 
>"structural emphasis", and given common dictionary definitions of emphasis:
>WCAG: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-HTML-TECHS/#text-emphasis

Further propagation of an unfounded proposition.

>Mirriam-Websters: http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/emphasis

1 a : force or intensity of expression that gives impressiveness or 
importance to something
    b : a particular prominence given in reading or speaking to one or more 
words or syllables
2 : special consideration of or stress or insistence on something

I take this to say that italic, bold, underline, strikethrough, ALL CAPS, 
and whispering would all qualify as forms of emphasis, not to mention the
full range of colors, vocal intonations, etc.

Let me put that differently. The simple act of using markup around a phrase
is emphasizing that phrase. Any markup. We have to examine the markup,
the phrase and often the context in which it appears to discern the 
of the emphasis that is being placed on a given phrase. Depending on the media
in which we are communicating, we may choose different methods for drawing
attention (or not) to the phrase. Let me say that again, all markup is 

The important question is always: why are we emphasizing this phrase?

>This seems to be the sense in which the Oxford Style Guide (the British 
>equivalent of the Chicago Manual of Style) uses "emphasis" too. By this 
>usage, /one/ use of italics is to signify emphasis in Western publishing, 
>but that does not make italics /only/ a form of emphasis.

For the purposes of our discussion, what other aspect of italics are you 
interested in exploring?
I asserted that bold and italics are forms of emphasis. I further asserted 
that <b> and <i>
were the twins of <string> and <em>.

>I don't have a Chicago Manual to hand, but its table of contents suggests 
>it likewise makes a conceptual distinction between italics generally and 
>italics used for emphasis:

I'm not sure what you are seeing, but as a document publisher with some 
I am willing to go out on a limb  and say that italic type is used to 
effect emphasis
for a variety of reasons, including pure artistry.

>Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis
Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 21:01:06 UTC

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