[whatwg] The semantics of visual offsetting vs. verbal offsetting

brenton strine whatwg at gmail.com
Fri Sep 15 08:49:35 PDT 2017

My understanding of the semantics of <strong> and <em> vs. <b> and <i> is
that the former indicate a stress, emphasis, offset or importance that
would be expressed verbally, if reading aloud.

On the other hand, the <b> and <i> tags indicate stress, emphasis, offset
or importance that is visual or typographic.

I frequently see people arguing that <strong> is the most semantic element
to use for a term or keyword because it is the most "important," but in a
situation where you would never change the way you read the sentence
verbally, but rather, just want the typographic indication that it's a
term. To me, I think this is coming from some ambiguity in the word
"important" that causes people to fundamentally misunderstand when to use
<strong> vs <b>.

Is my understanding (i.e., thinking in terms of visual vs. verbal offset as
a way of clarifying the meaning of the definitions) right here, and if so,
is there some sort of less ambiguous, authoritative document that I can
point people to when these discussions come up? Semantics conversations
always seem to come back to a fundamental disagreement about the meaning of
the words used in the W3C specification.

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