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Re: Nullifying insidious HTML 3.2 constructs

From: Ryan Cannon <ryan@ryancannon.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2005 14:15:56 -0500
Message-ID: <42163EEC.5070601@ryancannon.com>
To: www-style@w3.org
Laurens Holst wrote:

> Philip TAYLOR wrote:
>> > And for foreign-word, use <dfn>...
>> But unless I am mistaken, <dfn> is intended to be used
>> "to mark up terms which are used for the first time" [*];
>> since most Latin phrases need no glossing (for an
>> educated audience, at least), I would have thought that
>> <dfn> was /in/appropriate unless it is really to
>> be followed by a definition ...
> Well, in common typography the italics on e.g. foreign or technical 
> words is used to indicate the term is unknown, after which the 
> definition usually follows. The succeeding instances of the term 
> aren't rendered in italics, which is probably what the designers had 
> in mind when creating this tag (and probably the best method to follow 
> when creating markup :)).
> But you shouldn't take it too strictly (as-in only on the first 
> instance). If you really want to let the following occurances of the 
> terms show up in italics as well, I think it is better to use <dfn> 
> for the job than say, a <span>, or worse, <em>, which is just wrong.
>> [*] http://www.htmlhelp.com/reference/wilbur/phrase/dfn.html
> It would be better to quote the HTML specification :):
> http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/text.html#h-9.2.1
> "Indicates that this is the defining instance of the enclosed term."
> ~Grauw
I imagine dfn definitions as they appear in text books: within a 
paragraph about a subject, key vocabulary words defined in context are 
usually made bold, which is why I set them bold in all my stylesheets by 

I'm unsure as to the validity of using dfn for foreign words. 
Non-English words used within English are _always_ supposed to be 
italicized if assumed to be unfamiliar to the reader[1], making a 
legitimate claim for *[lang] { font-style: italic } *[lang!="en"] { 
font-style: inherit }

    [1] http://www1.umn.edu/urelate/style/italics.html#Anchor-FOREIGN-46919

Ryan Cannon
Instructional Technology
Web Design
RyanCannon.com <http://ryancannon.com/?refer=email>
(989) 463-7060
Received on Friday, 18 February 2005 19:15:59 UTC

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