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<small> tags in html5

 
 
Tim W
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      11-05-2013
<small> used to be a sort of typographical tag which was used to make
text small. It was always (I think) used inside a para or a heading or
some other element.

Now in html5, despite what w3schools says (Differences Between HTML 4.01
and HTML5, NONE.) it has a semantic meaning of something like 'the small
print'.

Does this mean I can use it on its own like:

<p>Some statements about something or other</p>
<small>disclaimers re the above</small>

without wrapping it in a paragraph?

Tim W
 
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Jukka K. Korpela
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      11-05-2013
2013-11-05 14:19, Tim W wrote:

> <small> used to be a sort of typographical tag which was used to make
> text small. It was always (I think) used inside a para or a heading or
> some other element.


Yep. Note, however, that there was no definition for how small the text
would be. HTML5 is nominally more explicit: it says that the "suggested
rendering" corresponds to

small { font-size: smaller; }

which really leaves it to browsers decide, whereas CSS 2.1 says, in a
"sample" style sheet for HTML 4:

small { font-size: 0.83em; }

The morale is: set the font size, so that you will not have
*unnecessary* variation across browsers. Usually 0.83em, or maybe a
little larger, is OK, but this somewhat depends on the font you intend
to use.

> Now in html5, despite what w3schools says (Differences Between HTML 4.01
> and HTML5, NONE.)


Ignore w3schools here, and otherwise; see http://w3fools.com

> it has a semantic meaning of something like 'the small
> print'.


Which isn't really semantic (i.e., relating to meaning) at all. It says
nothing about the meaning of the content. It just assigns a vague phrase
to the element. The explanation is more obscure than the thing it is
supposed to explain.

The sensible rule is simple: use <small> if you want something to appear
in smaller font than the surrounding text even when CSS is disabled, and
use CSS to set the specific font size proportion. It's really your
business *why* you want reduced font size, and the user won't see the
reason anyway, no matter what markup you use.

You can safely ignore "semantic" babble in this issue, as well as with
<i>, <b>, <u>, and some friends. Unless, of course, your pointy-haired
boss or your rich customer tells you to write "HTML5 conformant" pages.
(And even then, it is a matter of moral and honesty more than anything
else: how much can you lie and deceit and mislead when it really does
not hurt anyone and when trying to be honest at any cost could cost you
your mental health?)

For example, I use

<h1>The pragmatic guide to HTML: Principles<br>
<small>or<br>
The HTML Anarchistís leaflet</small></h1>

at
http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/pragmatic-html.html8
even though such usage might not match HTML5 "semantics" as of now (but
might do so tomorrow, or at some later point).

> Does this mean I can use it on its own like:
>
> <p>Some statements about something or other</p>
> <small>disclaimers re the above</small>


Yes.

> without wrapping it in a paragraph?


Yes. But you might wish to wrap all paragraphs (small print or not) in
<p> elements in order to be able to style them in a uniform manner.

And if the pointy-haired boss or rich customer forces you to be an HTML5
conformist, you can use

<span class=small>disclaimers re the above</span>

with

..small { font-size: 85% }

What the users will then lose is just that if CSS is turned off or
somehow filtered out (e.g., someone is viewing a cached copy in an
archive that has not stored the CSS files), then the disclaimers appear
in normal font size.

--
Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
 
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Jukka K. Korpela
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      11-05-2013
2013-11-05 22:39, dorayme wrote:

> If the HTML5 suggestion for [<small>] was that it be used to make side
> comments or "small print" then, no matter what we are to think about
> the usefulness of semantic markup, it does say something about the
> content.


Like what? It's something that someone wants to call "small print".

> The expression "small print" is not tautologous here; it is a
> meaningful expression to indicate legal text, copyright spiels,
> regardless of the size of the text.


Is it? Do you call laws "small print"? If promulgated laws are not legal
text, what is? Is a copyright announcement "small print" if presented in
very large font size to convey an essential message?

How do you *define* "small print" to a person who does not know your
meaning for it (which is, vague as it is, admittedly common in
Anglo-Saxon culture)? That is, what are necessary criteria for
distinguishing small print from other texts?

The real meaning of "small print" is "text presented in small font". The
only thing that "small print" adds here is an unpleasant connotation.

> The expression gets its name from
> the fact that it is customary to put such content in harder to read
> small text.


The connotation is that "small print" is text made intentionally harder
to read, so that nobody is really expected to read it, but people can
still be sued and condemned on the basis that they should have read it.

--
Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
 
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Tim Streater
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      11-05-2013
In article <l5blpo$p4g$(E-Mail Removed)>, Jukka K. Korpela
<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> 2013-11-05 22:39, dorayme wrote:
>
> > If the HTML5 suggestion for [<small>] was that it be used to make side
> > comments or "small print" then, no matter what we are to think about
> > the usefulness of semantic markup, it does say something about the
> > content.

>
> Like what? It's something that someone wants to call "small print".
>
> > The expression "small print" is not tautologous here; it is a
> > meaningful expression to indicate legal text, copyright spiels,
> > regardless of the size of the text.

>
> Is it? Do you call laws "small print"?


In English we do, yes. The expression "Did you read the small print?"
means, did you read any warnings, legal notices, terms and conditions,
etc etc, that might be relevant to the point being discussed, whatever
that might be.

--
Tim

"That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed,
nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted" -- Bill of Rights 1689
 
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Jukka K. Korpela
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      11-05-2013
2013-11-06 0:08, Tim Streater wrote:

>> Is it? Do you call laws "small print"?

>
> In English we do, yes. The expression "Did you read the small print?"
> means, did you read any warnings, legal notices, terms and conditions,
> etc etc, that might be relevant to the point being discussed, whatever
> that might be.


The question was whether you call laws "small print". Laws are documents
issued by authorities, such as parliaments and presidents, expressing
their ruling power to dictate what shall be done or shall not be done.
Such as the Constitution of the United States, or a Copyright Act, or a
Penalty Code.

Now, if "small print" means "legal text" among other things, then surely
such laws are "small print". Or? If a book is a compilation of laws, is
it entirely "small print"? If it additionally contains annotations to
laws, printed in small font size, would you still say that the laws are
"small print" and the annotations are something else?

What you seem to be saying is that some texts that *cite* laws may be
"small print".

But again, what would then be a *definition* of "small print"? Would
*all* warnings be "small print"? All terms and conditions? Or are you
actually referring to a presentation style where some bulk of text is
printed in small font size for some reason?

--
Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
 
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Ben C
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      11-05-2013
On 2013-11-05, dorayme <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> In article <l5aqqh$dbs$(E-Mail Removed)>,
> "Jukka K. Korpela" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
>> > it has a semantic meaning of something like 'the small
>> > print'.

>>
>> Which isn't really semantic (i.e., relating to meaning) at all. It says
>> nothing about the meaning of the content.

>
> If the HTML5 suggestion for it was that it be used to make side
> comments or "small print" then, no matter what we are to think about
> the usefulness of semantic markup, it does say something about the
> content.
>
> The expression "small print" is not tautologous here; it is a
> meaningful expression to indicate legal text, copyright spiels,
> regardless of the size of the text. The expression gets its name from
> the fact that it is customary to put such content in harder to read
> small text. A lot of money has been made by a lot of people from this
> practice. <g>


So probably browsers should display the contents of <small> elements in
a nice clear easy-to-read font that's a bit larger than usual.
 
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dorayme
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      11-05-2013
In article <l5blpo$p4g$(E-Mail Removed)>,
"Jukka K. Korpela" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> 2013-11-05 22:39, dorayme wrote:
>
> > If the HTML5 suggestion for [<small>] was that it be used to make side
> > comments or "small print" then, no matter what we are to think about
> > the usefulness of semantic markup, it does say something about the
> > content.

>
> Like what? It's something that someone wants to call "small print".
>


No, it's not just someone calling it that.

> > The expression "small print" is not tautologous here; it is a
> > meaningful expression to indicate legal text, copyright spiels,
> > regardless of the size of the text.

>
> Is it? Do you call laws "small print"?


No.

> Is a copyright announcement "small print" if presented in
> very large font size to convey an essential message?
>


No.

> How do you *define* "small print" to a person who does not know your
> meaning for it (which is, vague as it is, admittedly common in
> Anglo-Saxon culture)? That is, what are necessary criteria for
> distinguishing small print from other texts?
>


It's a meaning that must be understood from a family of contexts. You
cannot always define an expression so that people unfamiliar with it
will thereby be conversant with it. Dictionaries can only take you so
far.

As for criteria, one thing Wittgenstein did get right, was that many
concepts are family terms, not able to be cashed in terms of necessary
and sufficient conditions.

> The real meaning of "small print" is "text presented in small font". The
> only thing that "small print" adds here is an unpleasant connotation.
>


No, again. Small print is not just small text.


> > The expression gets its name from
> > the fact that it is customary to put such content in harder to read
> > small text.

>
> The connotation is that "small print" is text made intentionally harder
> to read, so that nobody is really expected to read it, but people can
> still be sued and condemned on the basis that they should have read it.


The connotation is not that quite. It may very well be intended, and
as I said, people have made a lot of money from such such an unsavoury
aspect. An honest author, advertiser, publisher might well draw
attention to the fine print, small print, in large print. So it is not
a direct connotation. It may just be a convenience to everyone
considering a lot of legal blah is very similar to have it not too
prominent.

--
dorayme
 
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dorayme
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      11-05-2013
In article <(E-Mail Removed)>,
Ben C <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> On 2013-11-05, dorayme <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> > In article <l5aqqh$dbs$(E-Mail Removed)>,
> > "Jukka K. Korpela" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> >
> >> > it has a semantic meaning of something like 'the small
> >> > print'.
> >>
> >> Which isn't really semantic (i.e., relating to meaning) at all. It says
> >> nothing about the meaning of the content.

> >
> > If the HTML5 suggestion for it was that it be used to make side
> > comments or "small print" then, no matter what we are to think about
> > the usefulness of semantic markup, it does say something about the
> > content.
> >
> > The expression "small print" is not tautologous here; it is a
> > meaningful expression to indicate legal text, copyright spiels,
> > regardless of the size of the text. The expression gets its name from
> > the fact that it is customary to put such content in harder to read
> > small text. A lot of money has been made by a lot of people from this
> > practice. <g>

>
> So probably browsers should display the contents of <small> elements in
> a nice clear easy-to-read font that's a bit larger than usual.


Perhaps in a juster world! <g>

But no, when I said "regardless of the size of the text", I was
meaning that the absolute size of the text was not relevant. It
sometimes if not often denotes material the authors consider to be
standard between it and its competitors, that it risks the death from
boredom of potential customers. The urge for small or fine print
sections is sometimes honourable, to void confusion.

Sydney has just introduced the Opal card, you tap it on a machine at
the beginning and end of ferry, bus and train journeys. There are
constant reminders to do this as it is so new. On the ferries (my main
experience since I live on the harbour) there are loud announcements
at every stop! When everyone gets used to this card, I am hoping the
operational advice will get said more quickly in a quieter voice or
abandoned altogether. In other words, I want it in the fine print of
life.

When people want to read a timetable, it is not their primary interest
to be told about things other than times, so... other interesting but
not relevant to the main purpose things can be left to the fine or
small print...

--
dorayme
 
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Ben Bacarisse
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      11-06-2013
"Jukka K. Korpela" <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
<snip>
> The connotation is that "small print" is text made intentionally
> harder to read, so that nobody is really expected to read it, but
> people can still be sued and condemned on the basis that they should
> have read it.


I don't think it need always be so nefarious. The key feature, I feel,
is that it's extra detail -- more detail than more people will want on
the first reading.

For example, on a food product page, I might put the ingredients in
<small>...</small>, and I might use it for those attribution/credit
blocks that so many site designs seem to need at the bottom. Neither is
being made hard to read for any underhand reason, but rather it's being
downplayed as being of secondary interest. Small print may be vital,
but it's considered to be detail that's less interesting than the rest
of the text.

--
Ben.
 
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Jukka K. Korpela
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      11-06-2013
2013-11-06 1:18, dorayme wrote:

>> How do you *define* "small print" to a person who does not know your
>> meaning for it (which is, vague as it is, admittedly common in
>> Anglo-Saxon culture)? That is, what are necessary criteria for
>> distinguishing small print from other texts?

>
> It's a meaning that must be understood from a family of contexts.


So you can't give a definition, can you?

HTML specifications have some tradition of using vague and idiomatic
expressions that are understandable only to the small fraction of
world's population who speak some forms of upper-class English and even
to them in conflicting ways. Don't make me started on <cite> and
<acronym>, for example.

But <small> used to be a nice little tag before some people made two
wrong decisions: to expel all "presentational markup" from HTML As We
Accept It, and to save <small>, due to its widespread use, my
transmogrifying into something nominally "semantic". They are doing the
same to <b>, <i>, and <u>, but <small> was the simplest of them all.

> You
> cannot always define an expression so that people unfamiliar with it
> will thereby be conversant with it. Dictionaries can only take you so
> far.


In specifications, such expressions are to be avoided. It is now
impossible to say whether a page using <small> is conforming or not.
Everyone and his brother has a different idea of the "meaning" of
<small>, except of course for the majority who never saw this small
print nonsense and simple think <small> means small font size.

> As for criteria, one thing Wittgenstein did get right, was that many
> concepts are family terms, not able to be cashed in terms of necessary
> and sufficient conditions.


Anyone tempted to be Wittgensteinian that way should refrain from trying
to write, edit, or read specifications in that mood. Just as you should
not give public speech when in Solipsistic mood, or perform surgery when
in Nihilistic mood.

> No, again. Small print is not just small text.


So what *is* it?

Considering a hypothetical web author living outside your linguistic
community, how do you expect him to use a markup element properly if it
is defined as denoting "small text" and dictionaries don't tell what it
means? Should he call you, or Hixie, or the W3C director whenever he is
considering the use of <small>?

--
Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
 
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