[whatwg] [br] element should not be a line break

Adam Quaile adamquaile at gmail.com
Wed Aug 4 06:45:32 PDT 2010


I too am new to this discussion, but I thought I'd share my thoughts.

Personally, I agree with you on the topic.

I would dispute the use of the address tag in all circumstances, as if I
remember correctly this is for marking up contact information for an author
of the page?

But yes, I agree. For example we should be able to disable the line-breaks'
presentational effect easily through the use of a stylesheet (or indeed
enable it).

On 4 August 2010 13:56, Thomas Koetter <thomas.koetter at id-script.de> wrote:

> Disclaimer: I'm new to this discussion list, so please excuse me if this
> topic has been discussed before. A quick search didn't turn up anything
> though.
> Currently, I'm writing a book on web programming and I stumbled over the
> specification of the br element for HTML5.
> http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/multipage/text-level-semantics.html#the-br-element
> In the past, there has been a lot discussion about not using br just to
> insert line breaks everywhere. I'm fully aware that we have lots of elements
> that are often a better fit and that, of course, line breaks can be achieved
> by "blocking" inline elements.
> What strikes me though is that according to the spec "The br element
> represents a line break". A *line* break is presentational in nature. The
> break is structural, but restricting it to a certain presentation of that
> break lacks the desired separation of structure and presentation.
> Wouldn't it make more sense to consider the br element to be just a minor
> logical break inside a paragraph? Just like hr represents a thematic break
> on the paragraph-level. How the break would be rendered is a different
> matter and should be left to the designer.
> In addition, the appropriate uses (poems, addresses) and examples currently
> given are not convincing.
> Consider this:
> <p>P. Sherman<br>
> 42 Wallaby Way<br>
> Sydney</p>
> There's no reason why line breaks should be part of an address. I've seen
> many addresses on one line with their parts separated just by dots or pipes.
> Given the inherent structure of an address, a definition list with
> name/value pairs would also be more semantically fitting than a paragraph of
> text with line breaks.
> <address>
>        <dl>
>                <dt>Name</dt><dd>P. Sherman</dd>
>                <dt>Street</dt><dd>42 Wallaby Way</dd>
>                <dt>City</dt><dd>Sydney</dd>
>        </dl>
> </address>
> Or just:
> <address>
>        <dl>
>                <dd>P. Sherman</dd>
>                <dd>42 Wallaby Way</dd>
>                <dd>Sydney</dd>
>        </dl>
> </address>
> Regarding poems, line breaks have conventionally been used in Western
> literature to aid in manifesting the rhythm. And there surely are many poems
> that use formatting for artistic effect. But I think it would be hard to say
> that *line* breaks are an inherent part of poems per se. I'd say that breaks
> are important means to determine structure, but line breaks are just one of
> many possible manifestations of such breaks. Just like in a musical score
> where the bar is present in sheet music but not in the actual music being
> played.
> Interestingly, the examples given for where not to use br look like great
> examples to actually use a break element (not necessarily a line break).
> First example:
> <p><a ...>34 comments.</a><br>
> <a ...>Add a comment.</a></p>
> There are two separate pieces of text that belong together (they are both
> related to comments). So using one paragraph to group them is fine. But they
> can benefit from a separation that is a bit stronger than just punctuation
> since one of them is purely informational and the other is a call to action.
> This is where a break element is perfect. One designer might want a line
> break. So he should be able to set a line break property on that break.
> Another designer doesn't like line breaks. So let her set the break to be
> generated as a green, medium-sized dot.
> Second example:
> <p><label>Name: <input name="name"></label><br>
> <label>Address: <input name="address"></label></p>
> Although I also prefer the version without the br element, I must say that
> a form is the one element where presentational markup does make sense. By
> its very nature a form has an explicit design, otherwise it would be called
> free-form. Granted, in web design there usually isn't and probably shouldn't
> be such a strong form character as in paper-based forms.
> So, in summary, I suggest changing the br element to just be a logical
> break element with the default rendition of a line break, but which could be
> adjusted via a new style property.
> I would love to hear your thoughts.
> --
> Thomas Koetter
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