A Modest Definition List Proposal

Tom Humiston tom at jumpingrock.net
Tue Apr 13 15:21:51 EDT 2010

Found this unsent reply stuffed in my drafts folder...

On 19 Feb 2009, at 6:48 AM, Michel Fortin wrote:

> Definition lists are already some sort of specialized niche syntax

> within Markdown and HTML: useful when you need one, but not

> something a lot of people care for or even know it exists.

Definition lists are suitable for many kinds of term/value pairings,
and not just definitions, but I had no concept of DLs as a flexible
and handy semantic structure until I learned CSS. CSS encourages one
to consider a document's *structure* (its HTML elements) as separate
from its *presentation* (the appearance of those elements).

I now regularly mark up, say, each workshop in a list as a DT, with
its details (description, cost, meeting times, contact info) as DDs.
Other CSS users may prefer to use unordered lists or the like, and
sometimes I do, too.

Is my use of DL appropriate? According to [Russ Weakley][1]:

> There are two points of view about the use of definition lists. Some

> people believe that definition lists should only be used for terms

> and definitions. Others believe that definition lists can be used to

> tie together any items that have a direct relationship with each

> other (name/value sets). This second point of view is supported by

> an example within the W3C specifications:


>> Another application of DL, for example, is for marking up

>> dialogues, with each DT naming a speaker, and each DD containing

>> his or her words.



> Although some people disagree with this example, it does suggest

> that definition lists can be used for more than simple terms and

> definitions, as long as there is a direct relationship between the

> items. [List of examples follows.]

[1]: http://www.maxdesign.com.au/articles/definition/

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