A discussion of <blockquote>’d interviews

August 28, 2007 at 12:07 am | Posted in Assignments, HTML | Leave a comment

In Should interview answers be marked up with a <blockquote>? PPK discusses the quoting of interviews and conversations in HTML.

The website of a Dutch ministry has been tested for compliance with the Web Guidelines. I have been asked to supply a second opinion, which I’m currently writing. I came across a complicated semantic point that I’m not quite sure of; hence I’d like to ask your opinion.

The main question according to PPK is…

…if interview answers count as quotations. After all, they are almost never direct, literal quotations of the interviewed person. Instead, the journalist usually changes the texts a little bit to remove the erms and such, and to create grammatically correct, readable sentences.

Semantically <blockquote> sets off text that is cited from another textual source (such as in this post). By using a block quote, authors acknowledge that the cited text comes from another source. However, PPK makes the point that journalist will usually need to edit dialog to a printable form. Journalists replace useless bits of mumblings (such as these) and conversational phrasing with coherent sentences.

Rather than reach a conclusion, PPK poses the question of appropriateness of <blockquote> to his readers.

The responses discuss other solutions. For instance, <dt> / <dd> pairs may create appealing visual results, but if reproduced aurally make little sense. Tables provide structure, but provide little semantic meaning. Most responses agreed that within current HTML, nothing quite completely captures the ordered nature of a dialog. Finally, PPK reaches the conclusion that for the time <p> provide the best compromise until <dialog> in HTML 5.

The discussion is interesting because of the various solutions provided. Yet, no one approach completely solves this issue. That web designers need to consider the aural representation of documents says a lot about the strides in accessibility the web has made in recent years. The balance of visual versus aural rendering illustrates the importance of clean markup combined with CSS to control document presentation.

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