[whatwg] Dialogue and inline quotations

Henri Sivonen hsivonen at iki.fi
Tue Oct 31 13:26:37 PST 2006

On Oct 31, 2006, at 15:34, Michel Fortin wrote:

> I think if HTML5 deprecate the use of <dl> for dialog, that it  
> ought to provide a an alternative syntax for them.

I still think <dl> makes sense for plays and the dialog doesn't need  
to be represented on the markup level when punctuation would suffice  
in print.

> I know it has already been discussed, but I'd suggest this:
>     <dialog>

What benefits do consumers of HTML get from knowing that something is  
a dialog?

What tangible benefits can authors see from marking up dialogs as  
dialogs? That is, what is the incentive to bother?

If most authors are not incentivized to mark up their dialogs as  
such, is there still enough value for consumers of markup if only  
relatively few dialogs are marked up as dialogs?

> This leaves much flexibility when writing dialogs, and thus allows  
> the markup to be used for dialogs at places <dl> could not.

That isn't a benefit if it turns out that there isn't particular  
value in marking up dialogs and the value of using <dl> is a  
particular presentation with default style sheet.

> For instance, this is a dialog, but since its mixed with the main  
> text you can't surround it by <dialog>. Also, using <cite> in here  
> isn't very practical, as the text refers to the speakers as "he" or  
> "she" most of the time.
>     <p>He was downstair when he heard a strange noise from outside.  
> When he
>     went to see, he saw Julietta in the park screaming at him:  
> <q>Where were
>     you?</q></p>
>     <p><q>I was busy fixing the pipes. What happened here?</q> he  
> asked.</p>
>     <p><q>There was a cat on the tree</q>, she said. <q>It jumped  
> and landed
>     in here.</q> She was pointing at a crate full of pieces of  
> metal. <q>I
>     jumped!</q></p>

Why not just use punctuation for the quotations?

> It's interesting to note however that the same text could be  
> surrounded by dialog tags when formatting the same dialog in  
> French. In the following example, <q> must be styled with no marks  
> and add em dashes must be added at the start of each paragraph in  
> the dialog (this could be done by CSS, although here I've done it  
> in the source for clarity):
>     <p>Il était au sous-sol quand il entendit un bruit étrange  
> venant de dehors.
>     Quand il est alla voir ce qui se passait, il vit Julietta dans  
> le park qui
>     lui cria:</p>
>     <dialog>
>     <p>— <q>Où étais-tu ?</q></p>
>     <p>— <q>J'était occupé à réparer les tuyaux. Qu'est-ce qui  
> c'est passé
>     ici ?</q> a-t-il demandé.</p>
>     <p>— <q>Il y avait un chat dans l'arbre</q>, dit-elle. <q>Il a  
> sauté
>     pour atterrir juste là.</q>
>     </dialog>
>     <p>Elle pointant une caisse pleine de morceaux de métal.</p>
>     <dialog>
>     <p>— <q>Et j'ai fait le saut !</q></p>
>     </dialog>
> Note that without <q> in the previous example, there is no easy way  
> to distinguish inserted text like "dit-elle" ("she said"), these  
> are typically disambiguated from context in French. But I'd  
> consider the <q> element optional anyway, even if omitting it  
> leaves this ambiguity.

If printed text in French (and other languages) works with the dialog  
dash style without visual hints where you put the <q> and </q> tags,  
why would an author want to go though the trouble of tagging the  
dialog like that and then making sure that any styling on the <q>  
element is suppressed?

> The second type of dialog I considered is more like in a theatrical  
> piece, where dialogs are completely free of any other prose. It was  
> previously suggested in HTML4 to use <dl> for this:
>     <p>Mary and Mark begin walking in the park.</p>
>     <dl>
>     <dt>Mary</dt>
>     <dd>So where do you want to go tomorrow? I can tell you already
>         have something in mind.</dd>
>     <dt>Mark</dt>
>     <dd>What makes you think that?</dd>
>     </dl>
> I think it'd be better expressed this way:
>     <p>Mary and Mark begin walking in the park.</p>
>     <dialog>
>     <p><cite>Mary:</cite> So where do you want to go tomorrow? I  
> can tell
>        you already have something in mind.</p>
>     <p><cite>Mark:</cite> What makes you think that?</p>
>     </dialog>

Why is that better than <dl>?

Henri Sivonen
hsivonen at iki.fi

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