Since Mark Pilgrim began making fine use of
cite, I’ve wondering whether my use of said tag has been correct. Mark uses
cite to mark up a reference to another source – exactly as I have done with his name in the previous sentence. Conversely, I have always used
cite to indicate a quotation from a source (but then I never reckoned on using it to create an archive by citation). Well, it seems we are both right. From the HTML 4.01 spec:
- Contains a citation or a reference to other sources.
For those of us who are unsure of precisely what a citation is, the Oxford English Dictionary says:
- CITATION: noun
- 1. a quotation from or reference to a book, paper, or author, especially in a scholarly work.
So then I recalled we have another tag for quotations in the form of
<q>. From the spec again:
Q is intended for short quotations (inline content) that don’t require paragraph breaks.
Hmm. So should I be using
q to contain quotations? A sensible answer would seem to be use
q for quotations from and
cite for references to. But let’s consider the default rendering on the world’s most widely used browser (IE/Win):
cite is shown in italic whereas
q is not differentiated at all. No quote marks, no italics, no nothing. That’ll be why I’ve never bothered with
Mark later back-pedalled and scrapped all use of
q. His reason being that JAWS, the popular screen reader, requires IE/Win and could not distinguish when a quotation was reached. Instead Mark chose a server side solution to replace
q with quote marks. I’m gonna stick with the CSS method for time being; I reckon that written context and the odd comma should be enough indication to the listener when something is a quotation or not (I could be wrong…).
Which brings me back to
cite. One of the reasons that I’ve never used it to mark up a reference to a source is because that’s often done with a link (but only visually, not meaningfully). What a shame there’s no
href attribute; this would be nice:
<p><cite href="http://www.clagnut.com/">Richard Rutter</cite> went on about tedious markup and bored everyone to tears.</p>