b and i

John Gruber gruber at fedora.net
Fri May 14 23:42:49 EDT 2004

Fred Condo <fred at tincture.us> wrote on 05/14/04 at 5:07pm:

> Thomas's two specific examples (taxa and vectors)  are for highly
> technical fields that either have or ought to develop a markup
> language for their semantics.

Right. To me, he's looking for specific sub-classes of "emphasis",
but they're still forms of emphasis.

I think if you take this argument to its conclusion, you'd end up
with dozens of different "emphasis" tags:



I also disagree with MPT about the `cite` tag. He gives the example
of italicizing a book title like this:

    Jared Diamond's <cite>Guns, germs, and steel</cite>

But the [W3C's example usage of `cite`] [1] contradicts this:

    As <CITE>Harry S. Truman</CITE> said,
    <Q lang="en-us">The buck stops here.</Q>
    More information can be found in <CITE>[ISO-0000]</CITE>.

According to the W3C, the `cite` tag can be used for citing
anything, including people, not just for the titles of publications
and works of art. And you certainly wouldn't want to italicize
Truman's name in the rendered output for the above markup.

One could argue that you could use CSS classes to differentiate
which citations ought to be italicized:

    <cite class="pubtitle">The New York Times</cite>

But why not this:

    <cite><em>The New York Times</em></cite>

And I just don't see the point of the `cite` tag, period. MPT argues
that it's useful for semantically savvy HTML parsing software, but I
don't see how that's so. `cite` has no standard attributes that can
be used to discern what is actually being cited.

For example, in this markup:


What am I citing? Amazon.com, the web site? Or a book title
"Amazon"? And if it's a book, *which* book? (I just did a quick
search, and found at least four books in print with that title.)

On the other hand, the "cite" attribute for the `blockquote` tag
*is* indeed semantically useful.

This markup:

    <blockquote cite="http://mpt.net.nz/archive/2004/05/02/b-and-i">

tells you exactly what is being cited.

In conclusion, I'm more convinced than ever that Markdown should
only offer shortcuts for `em` and `strong`, and that `i`, `b`, and
`cite` should be left to raw HTML if you want them.

[1]: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/struct/text.html#h-9.2.1


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