[whatwg] The m element [em and strong]

Øistein E. Andersen html5 at xn--istein-9xa.com
Thu Feb 8 14:53:15 PST 2007

David Latapie écrivit:

> Do you mean than focus is another subset of emphasis?

If you mean whether I think <m> conveys some sort of emphasis, then the answer
is yes.

I do not argue that a distinction between emphasis indicated by the
author and emphasis added afterwards is necessarily a bad idea, though.

> An example where there is emphasis without importance is the 
> “highlighting” of foreign words [...]:

Are they really not important? See Fowler below.
As for screen readers, would it not be appropriate to read
foreign words with an initial hesitation, slightly reduced
speed or some other very slight emphasis?

> /Conquistadores/ were wearing /morrión/
> <span xml:lang="es">Conquistadores</span> were wearing <em>morrións<em>

> Conquistadores: foreign word, italic
> Morrión:        important,    italic
> Can we say that both words are emphasized? Or only "morrión"?

/Morrión/ is the Spanish word for what is (according to my dictionary) usually
written /morion/ in English. There are therefore two reasons to italicise 
the name of the helmet in your example, 1) it is a foreign word, 2) it is

Disregarding this complication, both words are clearly /typographically/
emphasised, and both deserve their emphasis because they are important,
albeit in different ways and for different reasons.
This may well mean that different mark-up is called for in the
two cases, but both words remain emphasised.

Let me quote from Fowler's /Modern English Usage/:

> italics have definite work to do when a word or two are so printed in the
> body if a roman-type passage.  They pull up the reader & tell him not to read
> heedlessly on, or he will miss some peculiarity in the italicized word.  The
> particular point he is to notice is left to his own discernment ;  the
> italics may be saying to him :---
>  a. ` This word, & not the whole phrase of which it forms part, contains the
>     point ' :  It is not only /little/ learning that has been exposed to
>     disparagement.
>  b. ` This word is in sharp contrast to the one you may be expecting ' :  It
>     would be an ultimate benefit to the cause of morality to prove that
>     honesty was the /worst/ policy.
>  c. ` These two words are in sharp contrast ' :  But, if the child never
>     /can/ have a dull moment, the man never /need/ have one.
>  d. ` If the sentence were being spoken, there would be a stress on this
>     word ' :  The wrong man knows that if /he/ loses there is no consolation
>     prize of conscious virtue awaiting /him/.
>  e. ` This word wants thinking over to yield its full content ' :  Child-
>     envy is only a form of the eternal yearning for something better than
>     /this/ (i.e., the adult's position with all its disillusionments).
>  f. ` This word is not playing its ordinary part, but is a word as such ' :
>     Here /will/ is wrongly used instead of /shall/.
>  g. ` This is not an English word or phrase ' :  The maxim that deludes us is
>     the /progenies vitiosior/ of one to which the Greeks allowed a safer
>     credit.
>  h. ` This word is the title of a book or a newspaper, or the name of a
>     fictitious character ' :  The Vienna correspondent of /The Times/ reports
>     that . . . / The man in /Job/ who maketh collops of fat upon his flanks /
>     A situation demanding /Mark Tapley/.
> Such are the true uses of italics.

This passage hopefully illustrates that italics (like other kinds of emphasis)
are used for a vast variety of different purposes, and we cannot possibly
devise a different element for each (which would be the only truly semantic

My main point was and remains that importance and emphasis are intimately related.
Therefore, defining <strong> as denoting importance and pretending
that the two are completely dissociated entities is unlikely to be productive.

Øistein E. Andersen

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