[whatwg] <ol> semantics (and dialogue)

Mikko Rantalainen mikko.rantalainen at peda.net
Mon Oct 23 05:12:02 PDT 2006

Henri Sivonen wrote:
> 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  
> <dl>s.
> I am not a fan of #1-style reasoning. My guess is that case #2 is  
> already broken on the real Web.

I agree. Perhaps dl should be redefined as "Description List" or 
"Descriptive List". Then dt could be relabeled as Description Title 
and dd could be relabeled as Description Definition or Description 
Description :D Then it could be easily used for dialog too.

I don't think that it's worth the trouble to declare dl element to 
be unordered 
(http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#the-dl). As I 
see it, it's only to rationalize the #1-style above.

Is there a single user agent anywhere that doesn't present a dl list 
always in the source order? If not, how about fixing this issue and 
thus allowing dl to be used for dialogue?

Jukka Korpela has written a somewhat complete article about marking 
up definitions as http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/def.html and 
possible markup is presented at 

The dl element as we know it today is nowhere powerful enough to 
express much more than a simple entry with two parts. I think it 
would be wise to document the real world usage of dl element and 
*if* we want a specific markup for definitions, we can define 
something better.


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