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Posts Tagged ‘xhtml’

<strong> is not <b>

Many people—actually only many web designers—are under the impression that it’s cool too use the <strong> tag instead of the <b> tag. Well, I’m not!

What’s the difference, you may ask? Actually a lot. <b> has a pure physical meaning, it stands for ‘bold text’ and it always will stand for bold text. <strong> on the other hand has a logical meaning, it’s used to highlight text parts. The key phrase here is ‘highlight’. How it’s highlighted in the end is the choice of the (stylesheet) author. The fact that most browsers auto-bold <strong> is no excuse to use it as a replacement of good old <b>.

Don’t get me wrong, <strong> is great and everybody should use it at least once a day. But always remember:

If you want strongly emphasized text use <strong>.
If you just want bold text, use <b>.

It’s exactly the same for <i> and <em>. Italic text is not the same as emphasis. Not on the web! On print media it makes sense to bring out the importance of a paragraph with italics because you have no other choice (OK, you have capitals and stuff, but do you want to read a whole paragraph written in caps?). But we are living in the third millennium and we have CSS to highlight our content in a lot of ways (color!)

Again: Bold and Italics are the physical parameters of a letter. You can measure them. You can’t measure emphasis. Your brain gives parts of a text a stronger meaning than the rest. If you take a letter out of an important phrase it looses it’s important. If you take a bold letter out of a bold word, they letter is still bold!

If you still don’t get it then go on using FrontPage(tm or something) to make your websites… 😉

So why are there <b> and <i> tags? Because when HTML was “invented” nobody had any idea someone would still use it 20 years later 😉 So there are a lot of (X)HTML tags that are not important and some important tags are missing¹.

So what I do is, I use <strong/em> to support the meaning of text and <b/i> to assure the appearance of text.

¹ But HTML 5 is on the way, yeah!! 🙂

P.S. Don’t even think about underlining! Except hyperlinks of course.

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