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

Ashley Sheridan ash at ashleysheridan.co.uk
Mon Aug 9 03:03:42 PDT 2010

On Mon, 2010-08-09 at 11:55 +0200, Thomas Koetter wrote:

> Aryeh wrote:
> >No, but it's a stand-in for a class of semantics that can only fairly
> >be summarized as "the places where you would always use a line break
> >in print".  There is no single behavior that screen readers could use
> >to correctly present <br>, but the same is true for any number of
> >other cases.
> You're right that screen readers cannot convey line breaks in a manner suitable to the medium. Line breaks do not exist in speech. They are specific to text presentation and even there they are a concession to the physical limits of paper, stone tablets etc. and to usability concerns. In a browser, line breaks are completely unnecessary. Even the longest paragraph could be just one line. Let the user scroll!
> That's why I originally suggested getting rid of the line break element. It is purely presentational and doesn't make sense in speech. However, we could use a break element on the text level. Breaks are natural to any medium. In speech they are represented as pauses or changes in voice/volume or beep. In print and on screen they are represented as white space or line breaks or separator lines or dots or whatever.

I still think that they are more than presentational. Consider a poem
being read out; the breaks are spoken with a pause (if that's the right
way to say it?!) When you print the poem onto some visual media, the
breaks are usually depicted with an actual line break, or sometimes a
large space. I'm not entirely sure how a Braille browser would deal with
a line break though, but I would assume there is some form of identifier
for a new line/line break that might be used there.

I don't see the <br> tag to be too different from something like <em>.
There are ways to express this both visually and in speech that are
totally different yet effective. Why are emphasised words written in
italics anyway? It's only convention from the history of the printing
press, not through any special symbolic link that we all have between
the look and sound of the words.


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