Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Don't Quote Me

This one has me sad: Browsers are supposed to render the Q tag with quotation marks (W3 Schools.com).

"This is a Sample of the Q Tag."

If you are viewing this page in Firefox or Mozilla; you will see two sets of quotes. Internet Explorer only shows the quotes that I added. The different renderings make the tag useless.

The fact that the W3 started to use HTML tags for punctuation makes me really sad. This is the ultimate violation of the rule of separating form from content. The following line uses the Q tag. You can see them in Firefox.

Highlight me! I am quoted.

If you copy and paste the sentence into Notepad, the quotes magically disappear. The meaning of sentences change when you remove the punctuation.

I don't know who I dislike more. W3 for the stupid behavior of this tag or Microsoft for not implementing a really bad idea.

Here is the W3 Tag Definition for quotes.


Scott Hinrichs said...

Open source, indeed.

y-intercept said...

The double quote problem in character sets really began when word processing programs started having proprietary double quotes. So, you can say that the problem is proprietary thinking.

I am not certain if the problem is Microsoft. I remember having curly quotes in WordPerfect before Word, but don't know which firm shot the curly quotes over the bow first.

Of course, typesetters had been using different open and close quotes well before computers were a twinkling in Turing's eyes. Fonts and character sets were highly proprietary for ages before computing.

The convention of straight quotes used in most communications is the result of limited real estate for keys on the QWERTY keyboard.

Here is a good essay on Curly Quotes and browsers. UTF uses characters “ and ” for curly quotes (“hello”). Window's code pages used characters 147 and 148. “hello”.

It is wise to avoid using the Window's characters. It is my guess that in the 1980s, Word Processing companies felt pressured to include curly quotes as a feature. Since it was not a feature of the character sets, they used unassigned control characters in their code pages for curly quotes. This expedience was as short sighted as the W3's idea to start having HTML tags serve as punctuation.

BTW: A much wiser course for W3 would be to have browsers interpret straight quotes adjacent to Q tags as an open quote and the straight quote adjacent to the close Q as a close quote. Using HTML tags as punctuation really messes things up. It is a repeat of the thinking that caused problems in the first place.