[whatwg] <ol> semantics (and dialogue)

Henri Sivonen hsivonen at iki.fi
Mon Oct 23 02:34:54 PDT 2006

On Oct 5, 2006, at 00:56, Simon Pieters wrote:

> Which brings us to the next point: dialogue. The spec contains an  
> example[3] which suggests that <ol> is appropriate for dialogue.  
> I'm not convinced that it is. What makes a dialogue a list? While  
> the order of dialogue is important, so is the order of any other  
> paragraphs -- I don't think it should be emphasized in particular.

I agree that using <ol> for dialog is weird.

> I think I'd mark up the dialogue like this:
>   <p> <cite>Costello</cite>
>       <q> Look, you gotta first baseman? </q>
>   <p> <cite>Abbott</cite>
>       <q> Certainly. </q>
>   ...

I still think that <cite> should mean "title of work" and shouldn't  
be used for people, but that's another discussion. (I also think that  
<cite> lacks a proper use case that would justify its existence  
instead of just using <i> for titles of works and <b> for names of  

Anyway, to my point:

HTML+ used <dl> for dialog. As far as default presentation goes, <dl>  
is the best fit for marking up dialog. Yet, the semantic markup party  
line is against it.

I think there are two reasons for insisting that <dl> shouldn't be  
used for dialogs, i.e. that <dl> really is a definition list rather  
than a generic presentational grouping device:
  1) Saving face after years of such insistence.
  2) Avoiding breaking software that collects term definitions from  

I am not a fan of #1-style reasoning. My guess is that case #2 is  
already broken on the real Web.

Is there a good reason for not prescribing <dl> for dialogs?

Henri Sivonen
hsivonen at iki.fi

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