[Standards-JIG] Re: JEP-0071 XHTML-IM lack of scope

Tijl Houtbeckers thoutbeckers at splendo.com
Wed Sep 1 23:22:18 UTC 2004

On Wed, 01 Sep 2004 16:32:28 -0600, Peter Saint-Andre <stpeter at jabber.org>  

> In article <4133C19D.2020606 at apnic.net>, Byron Ellacott <bje at apnic.net>
> wrote:
>> the <em/> element is not about italics, it's about emphasis.
> Indeed it is:
> http://www.saint-andre.com/elegant-html/1_09.html
>> Now, the introduction text you've added to the JEP does talk about
>> lightweight formatting being emphasis, but it's also about font  
>> information.
>> The main reason XHTML seems like a bad fit
> A bad fit for addressing the requirements of lightweight text formatting?
>> is you specify a relatively
>> small subset of XHTML to use, and for the things which aren't available
>> in XHTML, you specify a very small subset of CSS to use, which includes
>> font-weight and font-style.
> Is this inconsistent in some way?
>> Is it better for a client to generate <em/>
>> or <span style="font-style: italics"/> elements when the user requests
>> italics?
> This is addressed by Business Rule #3:
> 3. The use of physical tags such as <b/> and <i/> is NOT RECOMMENDED;
> instead, implementations SHOULD use the appropriate logical elements
> (such as <em/> and <strong/>). Implementations MAY use the <span/>
> element with an appropriate 'style' attribute (e.g., <span
> style='font-weight: bold'>this is bold</span>), but they SHOULD use
> logical structures (e.g., <strong/>) rather than physical formatting
> (e.g., <span style='font-weight: bold'/>) wherever possible.
> Now, we know that users (and even HTML authors) don't know anything
> about the distinction between logical and physical, because plenty of
> people still mark up their pages with <b> and <i>. But perhaps people
> are smarter than protocol geeks, and what they really wanted all along
> was bold and italics, not strong and emphasis....

There is nothing wrong with that in HTML. (except that you should perhaps  
prefer CSS based markup). It's only wrong when you mean to place (strong)  
emphasis on something. There are are plenty of legitimate cases where that  
is true. Let's look at the formatting of this JEP itself for example  
(though I'm not sure what kind of HTML it is supposed to be). It uses  
<strong/> for "Table of Contents:". I assume cause it looks pretty, not  
cause you want the TTS engine to shout it out. Then all through the  
document every term with a footnote also uses <strong/>. I think it would  
be better if there was a style entry in the css for that, or <dfn>. Then  
you can over ride it with your own CSS preferences. Or are these actually  
suppesed to be strongly emphasized?? Where there is emphasis.. the JEP  
just uses CAPITAL formatting. Well that's an RFC thing I guess :)

I don't think the point of <strong/>, <em/> (or <dfn/> <code/> <samp/>  
<kbd/> <var/> <cite/> for that matter) is mark-up at all. CSS anyone?  
These elements are meant to structure your text. Therefore, it is wrong to  
tell someone they SHOULD use <strong/> and <em/> when to want to format  

Perhaps the issue isn't that important anymore since, taking the JEP  
itself as an example, misusage of <strong/> and <em/> is already so  
widespread (perhaps from riding the "don't use <i/> and <b/>" momentum).  
But it still looks weird to recommend bad practise in a JEP.

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