[whatwg] The semantics of visual offsetting vs. verbal offsetting

Qebui Nehebkau qebui.nehebkau+whatwg at gmail.com
Sat Sep 30 22:53:22 PDT 2017

On 15 September 2017 at 11:49, brenton strine <whatwg at gmail.com> wrote:
> My understanding of the semantics of <strong> and <em> vs. <b> and <i> is
> that the former indicate a stress, emphasis, offset or importance that
> would be expressed verbally, if reading aloud.
> On the other hand, the <b> and <i> tags indicate stress, emphasis, offset
> or importance that is visual or typographic.
> I frequently see people arguing that <strong> is the most semantic element
> to use for a term or keyword because it is the most "important," but in a
> situation where you would never change the way you read the sentence
> verbally, but rather, just want the typographic indication that it's a
> term. To me, I think this is coming from some ambiguity in the word
> "important" that causes people to fundamentally misunderstand when to use
> <strong> vs <b>.
> Is my understanding (i.e., thinking in terms of visual vs. verbal offset as
> a way of clarifying the meaning of the definitions) right here, and if so,
> is there some sort of less ambiguous, authoritative document that I can
> point people to when these discussions come up? Semantics conversations
> always seem to come back to a fundamental disagreement about the meaning of
> the words used in the W3C specification.

The issue has possibly passed its expiration date by now, but no, I do
not think that e.g. the definition of the strong element (as set out
at https://html.spec.whatwg.org/multipage/text-level-semantics.html#the-strong-element
) is consistent with your understanding. I don't know exactly what the
W3C has to say on the matter at the moment, but most would caution
against relying on their somewhat idiosyncratic perspective.

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