Re: HTML 3: Too many tags! (was re: Psycholo

Ian Graham (
Thu, 20 Jul 95 13:52:20 EDT

> From: Ka-Ping Yee <>
> | On Tue, 18 Jul 1995, Daniel W. Connolly wrote:
> | > If I had it to do over again, there would only be three phrase-markup
> | > elements: <em>, <tt>, and <??> where ?? is b or something like it.
> | > They're short, almost meaningless worlets that mean, respectively,
> | > emphasized, machine-like, and strongly-emphasized. (pretty close to
> | > TeX's <em>, <b>, <tt>, though it also adds <sl> and a few others, as I
> | > recall...)
> |
> The problem is that it's virtually impossible to avoid presentation
> issues, unless you assume you have a style-sheet model that will allow
> you to map arbitrary (document-defined) types to presentation styles.
> Which is, I think, the right answer. So the question is, what level of
> text categorization do you need to have for markup in situations where
> style-sheets aren't supported. I think the answer is a little broader
> than three types - real documents often have italics, bold, underscore,
> and size differentiation. That differentiation represents real content
> distinctions that you need to be able to represent. If you want to
> limit the markup to using n types, with non-meaningful names, the
> inevitable result will be that a convention evolves for the conventional
> representation of each of those types, and you might just as well have
> called them bold, italic, underscore, etc.

Let's also remember the situation where you want to convert a preexisting
document into HTML -- one that contains B, I, U as defined physical types,
but no logical elements. If you want to automate the conversion (or even
do it by hand), you'd have to define some complex rules that
would determine which logical type to select (is this bold a STRONG, or
maybe an ACRONYM?). And, there will be always be cases where bold was
just bold because it looked good, with no deep underlying meaning intended.

HTML has to strike a balance between these issues. And, as mentioned
by Scott (and others before) stylesheets solve some, but not all presentation
problems, since presentation is not always simply separable from meaning.

> scott preece
> motorola/mcg urbana design center 1101 e. university, urbana, il 61801
> phone: 217-384-8589 fax: 217-384-8550
> internet mail:


Ian Graham .....................................
Information Commons
University of Toronto