[whatwg] sic element

Jukka K. Korpela jkorpela at cs.tut.fi
Tue May 3 02:52:11 PDT 2011

Ian Hickson wrote:

> I think we use "[sic]" as a way for one human to tell another human
> that they are aware that the text has a mistake but that keeping the
> mistake was intentional, so that the other human won't tell the first 
> human
> to fix the problem. For this, plaintext "[sic]" seems to solve the problem
> quite adequately.

I think it is more common to use "[sic]" or "[!]" or some similar plain text 
annotation to inform the _reader_ that some spelling is intentional, so that 
he won't regard it as an error in a quotation and won't wonder whether the 
text is corrupted. It might also be used to draw attention to a spelling 
that deviates from the normal.

I don't think such annotations deserve a markup element. There are many 
kinds of annotations that might be regarded as metadata, for which some 
markup could be used, for various reasons, but there is little evidence of 
practical benefits that would be gained by such markup in HTML.In the 
future, if such evidence is presented, new design decisions might be made, 
but then it would be best to consider various annotatíons in general and 
pick up the types for which markup really produces useful effects.

But I'm afraid we cannot completely put aside the issue. The reason is that 
recently the <u> element was promoted from obsolete physical markup to 
conforming semantic markup, though with semantics that really confuses me:
"The u element represents a span of text with an unarticulated, though 
explicitly rendered, non-textual annotation, such as labeling the text as 
being a proper name in Chinese text (a Chinese proper name mark), or 
labeling the text as being misspelt."

So the question "which markup should I use to indicate a word as 
intentionally misspelt?" is currently "the <u> element". Misspelling is a 
relatíve concept, and e.g. old spellings of words, though not really errors, 
might be regarded as misspellings in modern texts. Perhaps the same might 
apply to unusual spellings. So <u> would cover much of the common use of 

This sounds somewhat unnatural, though, since in the absence of stylesheet 
rules for <u>, and when styles are disabled, <u> is rendered as underlined 
in visual presentation. This tends to draw attention more than is desirable 
in most situations.


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