Re: Re[2]: Left justify and italics? (#699772)

Subject: Re: Re[2]: Left justify and italics? (#699772)
From: Bill Burns <wburns -at- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 09:42:09 -0600

23-MAY-1996 00:04:37.26

>Whole-heartedly agree with a lot of what both of you have been saying and so
>on; but one li'il problem with the above. Okay, tagging with heuristic [is
>that the word I am looking for?] tag names is better for translatability, but
>tagging with "bold", etc. keeps control on the final look and feel in your
>hand across platforms. A font that looks like a heading, for example, in one
>font [or one platform, or browser] looks wimpish or invisible on another. I
>particularly have in mind the "emphasis" tag in HTML that should stand out
>but comes out a pretty faint italic in my flavour of Netscape -- but not on
>the Mac for example.

The problem you point out is precisely the argument people use for tagging by
content rather than format. Different browsers (and, apparently, like browsers
on different platforms) display tags differently, so you either have to
compromise visual design for maximum portability or accept that your page is
going to look like garbage on someone's browser and look fabulous on your
browser of choice. Using structural or content-oriented tagging, you can
maintain the structural integrity of your document and leave the appearance of
the content up to the browser. This isn't as great a solution for commercial
publications that need to draw in the public, but it works for those who simply
have to communicate information without knocking the socks off of the user.

The problem with using <i> and <b> is that all you get is format. If your
concern is solely the appearance of the information, then use them. If you have
some other purpose in mind--say, using <strong> to mark keywords for database
searching, or <cite> to mark bibliography entries--the *specific* appearance
doesn't mean as much.

David Seigel (the author of Web Wonk) suggests that you don't use HTML
formatting alone if layout is of primary interest--especially if you want to
create white space. The URL for the Web Wonk is

On the font issue, Geoff had mentioned that italic fonts do disrupt reading flow
to a small extent. If italics are being used to draw attention to a term or
phrase for one reason or another, then disruption of the regular reading flow
would be the point. If italicized text is unreadable, then you have a problem;
if it's merely disrupting the smooth transition from word to word during the
reading process, then it's performing its intended function.

On the line-length issue, I also agree with Geoff. A hard-and-fast rule about
the physical length of a line doesn't account for differences in purpose OR for
changes in the size of the typeface. I've heard some designers here mention a
formula for determining optimum line lengths, but I can't quite remember what it
was--2.5 x [font size]/ something. Any bites out there?

Bill Burns
Assembly Training and Documentation Supervisor

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