About the Talking About Semantics

I feel the need to take a time-out and regroup in regards to the SimpleQuiz.

What’s the point in arguing about semantics? XHTML is not a semantic language.

I agree — it may never be a purely semantic language. I sort of wished I had never used the word “semantic” in the questioning of the quizzes. What we’re trying to get at here is whether one method of markup has any benefits over another. That’s it. Call it semantics, call it preferred methods, call it advantages and disadvantages, etc. The bottom line is that talking about this stuff (as mundane and ridiculous as it can get) can be beneficial.
Sure, at times we’re all splitting hairs and to some it may seem like an absolute waste. But, call me crazy, it’s fun talking about the million different ways to markup a list or a form or a heading — and hearing how others may do it differently. I also hope to broaden the questions to handle CSS methods and tricks.
So, the intention is to question the whole idea of semantics, when they’re helpful or when they ain’t — not to preach some “golden way” of writing web pages. I’ll be the last to want to adhere to a single way of marking up XHTML. Sometimes, a tag is a tag is a tag, and instead of worrying about what’s right we should go outside and toss the football around (or kick the football around for all you non-Americans).
Allright. Had to get that off my chest. Now back to work. The next quiz will be on how XHTML files with odd numbered byte sizes are more semantically correct. (Just kidding).


  1. Keith says:

    I know you’re not trying to insight a semantic debate about semantics! ;)

  2. Wouldn’t that be kick the soccer ball around for us Americans? =-)

  3. well said…sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…it really comes down to what the intended lifespan of a document is, in my view. if it’s only a page that will be up for a few months or so, then i wouldn’t split any hairs. if it’s a document which is expected to be used and re-used in some shape or form for the next X years, then i’d be more careful about how to mark it up (if the final markup is also going to be its only archived form)…
    but yeah, time to kick the zealots around…aeh…i meant football.

  4. Jai says:

    I’m glad you clarified that. I was gettinga little weirded out by some of the “correct” answers sometimes… being that they didn’t always seem to be the purely semantic answers. Thanks again. The Simple Quizes rock!

  5. Rich says:

    Where many people use the word ‘semantic’, I prefer to use the word ‘meaningful’, as in “Mark up your documents with meanimgful XHTML”. I think it’s more, um, meaningful this way.
    In response to the goings-on with SimpleQuiz, I posted a little diatribe on mark-up tactics where I tried to highlight one of the advantages of using meaningful mark-up. Meaningful XHTML will eliminate many of those unneccessary divs, spans and classes, thus making your style sheets simpler and easier to understand.
    That’s just one of the reasons why the discussion you’ve started here is so important.

  6. I, for one, have really enjoyed this quiz series. It’s highly beneficial to me to find out how others out there think things should be done with having to go and view the source of all of their pages, even thought I’ve probably already done that anyway. ;-)

  7. Lucian says:

    It is always interesting when people gather to make meaning of meaning. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all the comments. Making all of us think about what we do and why we do it is great therapy.

  8. Andrea says:

    I just found these discussions yesterday and since then I’ve been reading like mad. I had no idea there were other people out there who dwell on the “best” or most efficient/elegant way to code their pages.
    This has given me a lot of great ideas for improving my work and moving more towards XHTML and CSS pages. I gave up <font> a few years ago, but I’m still a big fan of tables, so I won’t share my URLs for now. ;-)
    One thing I would like to find is a glossary of terms. I’m all self taught by looking at other pages, some online tutorials, and reading the HTML specification pages at w3.org, BUT (should I have emphasized there?) I’m still baffled by much of the vocabulary here.