[whatwg] the cite element

Erik Vorhes erik at textivism.com
Thu Jun 4 07:47:47 PDT 2009

On Thu, Jun 4, 2009 at 3:13 AM, Kristof Zelechovski
<giecrilj at stegny.2a.pl> wrote:
> The HTML is required to produce a meaningful rendering without CSS.  The
> level of reader surprise at the default rendering of
>        <cite >Aristotle</cite > said
> is high and such markup should be verbally deprecated.  (I agree that it
> cannot be technically invalid, of course.)

If I'm reading your message correctly, you assert that the spec's
documentation of semantic uses for <cite> must be limited because of
how browsers render text within <cite> by default.

But the argument in favor of limiting <cite> in the spec. to titles
becomes almost immediately problematic. According to many scholarly
style guides (e.g., APA, MLA, and Chicago), default browser styles
properly italicize <cite>Crime and Punishment</cite>, but they would
improperly italicize the title to an article in a periodical.
Logically, then, if we are to use default styling as a baseline for
the usage of <cite>, the spec. would need to identify which kinds of
titles are appropriate to wrap within that element.

In addition, I'm skeptical about how much users are surprised when
they encounter italicized text. Visually, at least, by default <cite>
renders no differently from <em>, so it's not as if italicization is
an issue in itself; and judging my some of the seemingly random uses
of <em> in the wild, I doubt this is as big an issue as you suggest.

So count me as seconding Andrew Hagen's suggestions regarding <cite>.
It's too semantically useful an element to preemptively limit its use
only to titles.

Erik Vorhes

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