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Just how cute are cats? W3C can help

HTML 5 - now with added <em>phasis

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The recent announcement by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) of the first major overhaul of HTML in ten years was largely greeted with indifference down at the Vulture Central hackery department, where the average journo has trouble telling his <a>s from his <elbow>.

However, were they to take the time to peruse the discussion on the <em> element, they'd find this handy guide to indicating the level of cuteness of cats:


The em element represents stress emphasis of its contents.

The level of emphasis that a particular piece of content has is given by its number of ancestor em elements.

The placement of emphasis changes the meaning of the sentence. The element thus forms an integral part of the content. The precise way in which emphasis is used in this way depends on the language.

These examples show how changing the emphasis changes the meaning. First, a general statement of fact, with no emphasis:

Cats are cute animals.

By emphasizing the first word, the statement implies that the kind of animal under discussion is in question (maybe someone is asserting that dogs are cute):

Cats are cute animals.

Moving the emphasis to the verb, one highlights that the truth of the entire sentence is in question (maybe someone is saying cats are not cute):

Cats are cute animals.

By moving it to the adjective, the exact nature of the cats is reasserted (maybe someone suggested cats were mean animals):

Cats are cute animals.

Similarly, if someone asserted that cats were vegetables, someone correcting this might emphasize the last word:

Cats are cute animals.

By emphasizing the entire sentence, it becomes clear that the speaker is fighting hard to get the point across. This kind of emphasis also typically affects the punctuation, hence the exclamation mark here.

Cats are cute animals!

Anger mixed with emphasizing the cuteness could lead to markup such as:

Cats are cute animals!

Terrific. Big up rispek to the W3C for clarifying just how the humble <em> can be deployed as a potent linguistic weapon. Now that's what we call service. ®

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