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

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at myrealbox.com
Thu Jan 11 19:25:52 PST 2007

On Jan 12, 2007, at 5:23 AM, Henri Sivonen wrote:
> ...
> The introduction of <em> and <strong> (circa 1993) has failed to 
> achieve a semantic improvement over <i> and <b>, because prominent 
> tools such as Dreamweaver, Tidy, IE and Opera as well as simplified 
> well-intentioned advocacy treat <em> and <strong> merely as more 
> fashionable alternatives to <i> and <b>. (I mean failure in terms of 
> what meaning a markup consumer can extract from the real Web without a 
> private agreement with the producer of a given Web page. I don't mean 
> the ability of authors to write style sheets for their own markup.)
> ...

Is the effort to get people to use CSS instead of spacer GIFs a bad 

Is the effort to get people to use <h1>..<h6> instead of <p><b> or 
<p><font> a bad idea?

Is the effort to get people to use CSS instead of <table> for layout a 
bad idea?

There were, I'm sure, many more occurrences of those problems than 
there were improper uses of <em> and <strong>. And the efforts to 
replace them are much older than the effort to get people who don't 
think about semantics to use <b> and <i>, which has hardly even started 

Ten years ago, the typical Web developer probably didn't know what <em> 
and <strong> were. Now, the typical Web developer probably thinks that 
<b> and <i> are dirty and that XHTML is the future. This does not mean 
all is lost, it just means the standards advocates oversteered. Time 
for another adjustment.

> ...
> Insisting on the difference of <i> and <em> is not without harm, 
> because arguing about which one to use is not without opportunity 
> cost.
> ...

"Not without" makes that statement look more profound than it is.

Matthew Paul Thomas

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