Query about emphasis

Simon Bull waysoftheearth at yahoo.com.au
Sun Jun 21 04:20:28 EDT 2009

Hello List,

Firstly, I was very impressed when I tried markdown 2.0 recently. Fantastic
work all!

I have a query about the treatment of emphasis.

I realise that the horse has bolted, and changes to currently supported
functionality are unlikely to attract support. However, there does seem (at
least in my tiny mind) to be a mis-match between the following stated goal
and the present implementation of emphasis:

Quote (from http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/syntax#philosophy):
Markdown’s syntax is comprised entirely of punctuation characters, which
punctuation characters have been carefully chosen so as to *look like what
they mean*.

It seems to me that *writers* who are not programmers are thinking in terms
of italic, bold, underlined, or stuckout text and so on. A *writer* is not
thinking about abstract concepts like <em> or <strong> or any HTML at all.

During a process of "marking down" some informally structured text files in
order to get them into HTML, I have encountered the following "syntax" :

Here is some plain text that looks /italic/.
Here is some plain text that looks -s-t-r-u-c-k-o-u-t-.
Here is some plain text that looks _underlined_.
Here is some plain text that looks *bold*.

This issue I see is that stylistic information intended by the author is *
lost* by the current implementation. Markdown supports only two flavours of
emphasis (<em> and <strong>) while writers can intend at least the four
flavours of emphasis mentioned above (bold, italic, underlined, struck
out). I.e., information is "lost in translation".

Also, there is no guarantee that browsers will render <em> or <strong> in
the style intended by the author, because <em> and <strong> have
intentionally been abstracted away from the writer's concepts of bold,
italic, underlined and so on. I don't see that those abstractions are
helpful where readability of the plain text source file, and the goal quoted
(above) are the primary concerns.

One possible solution to my issue would be something like this:

/some text/ --> <font style="italic">some text</font>
-s-o-m-e-t-e-x-t- --> <font style="struckout">some text</font>
_some text_ --> <font style="underline">some text</font>
*some text* --> <font style="bold">some text</font>

I anticipate that there probably won't be much appetite for changing the
markdown tool, so I intend to have a go at implementing the above for my own
"local" markdown (with approximately zero knowledge of Python). However, I
would be interested what other list members think about this? Does anyone
else see it as an issue or not?

Thanks all, and GREAT WORK markdown team!

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