[whatwg] contenteditable, <em> and <strong>

Leons Petrazickis leons.petrazickis at gmail.com
Tue Jan 9 13:57:31 PST 2007

On 1/9/07, Henri Sivonen <hsivonen at iki.fi> wrote:
> My conclusion is that semantic markup has failed in this case. <em>
> and <i> are both used primarily to achieve italic rendering on the
> visual media. <strong> and <b> are both primarily used to achieve
> bold rendering on the visual media. Regardless of which tags authors
> type or which tags their editor shortcuts produce, authors tend to
> think in terms of encoding italicizing and bolding instead of
> knowingly articulating their profound motivation for using italics or
> bold. Even those who have heard about the theoretical reasons for
> using <em> and <strong> tend to decide which one to use based on
> which one has the preferred default visual presentation for the case
> at hand.

A more general question is whether bold or italic are presentational.
Are they any more presentational than capitalizatio?. Methinks the
assumption that capitalization is semantic while bold and italic are
presentational is a historical accident, not reality.

Imagine a world where ASCII only had lowercase characters. A different
font would have to be substituted for uppercase, just as a different
font now has to be substituted for italic or bold. A web browser in
such a world would have this presentational tag:
<capitalize> - Capitalizes the first letter of every word
And these semantic tags:
<sentence> - By default, capitalizes the first letter of the first word.
<proper> - By default, capitalizes the first letter of every word.

CSS would show up, and the semantic markup philosophy would catch on.
Adherents would proclaim "<capitalize> Considered Harmful" and urge
people to switch to <sentence> for sentences, <proper> for proper
nouns, and CSS <spans> for other uses. After all, different languages,
different dialects, different cultures all have different
capitalization practices. Different publishing houses capitalize
titles differently.

Instead of doing that, people just swapped <proper> in place of
<capitalize>. The adherents raged. "What fools these people be. The
first word of a sentence is not a proper noun. We need to proselytize
more!" But to no avail.


Capitalize, <b> bold, and <i> italicize are all intrinsic properties
of prose, just as <br> line breaks are intrinsic properties of poetry.
 They can be abused:
<div><p><b><font size="+4">Dragons Be Here</b></div></p></font>
But using them mid-paragraph is not abuse. Their use should be neither
deprecated nor discouraged.

Leons Petrazickis

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