ISSUE-3: a single letter element to mark dialog (block and inline) should be added to XHTML2

d for dialogue

a single letter element to mark dialog (block and inline) should be added to XHTML2

Raised by:
Gregory Rosmaita
Opened on:
Proposal: D - A Single-Letter Element for Dialogue
note: this is a text-image of a wiki page which lives at:

Rationale: XHTML2 currently lacks an element that can clearly mark
text as dialogue. The use of Q is not an option for this use case, as
the characters aren't being quoted, they are engaging in a
conversation. Since a dialogue element would be used quite often, the
shortest element name is the best element name for the semantic
concept of "dialogue".

Element Requirements

1. Dialogue, indicated by the single-letter element D should not be
limited to a block-level container; instead, D should be capable of
serving as both a block level and an inline element, in accordance
with the precedent set by: INS and DEL.

* Note: If it is decided that two distinct elements are needed --
one for inline use and one for block use -- then the simplest
solution would be to use D inline (since it would be used quite
often in a document instance) and DB or DBLOCK for block use.
Since dialogue is dialogue, however, it would be preferable to
have a single element to declaratively mark dialogue, and leave
the rest to native structural elements and stylesheets. Therefore,
throughout this document, D is used to indicate a dialogue element
in both inline and block level situations.

2. There is a need for inline uses of D: Q is not an option in this
case, as the characters aren't being quoted, they are engaging in a

<!-- begin example of inline dialogue -->
<p><d class="f2">So, then what happened?</d> she asked in a hoarse
whisper, sliding into a secluded booth.</p>

<p><d class="m1">Well,</d> drawled Marlowe, taking his seat, <d
class="m1">that's the odd thing -- nothing happened at all...</d>
<!-- end example of inline dialogue -->

3. D provides a clear and necessary semantic marker in a
generic/foundational declarative markup language -- it provides a
declarative means of identifying text as dialogue, rather than leaving
indications of dialogue embedded in prose to be indicated with "naked"
quotation marks, character entity values or unicode values such as "
or u0022 or u0027, and so on) nor can one rely on extremely spotty
implementation of the :before and :after pseudo-elements to generate
quotes (which, because they are generated by CSS, will not be
communicated to most assistive technologies, such as screen readers,
so there will be no aural indication that a string of text is a bit of
dialogue as there would be if a D element is used;

<d class="csg">I think oysters are more beautiful than any
religion,</d> he resumed presently. <d class="csg">They not
only forgive our unkindness to them; they justify it, they incite
us to go on being perfectly horrid to them. Once they arrive at
the supper-table they seem to enter thoroughly into the spirit of
the thing. There's nothing in Christianity or Buddhism that quite
matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an oyster.</d>

4. when used as a block level element, there needs to be a child
element of D which can declaratively mark part of the text as not
being dialog, such as stage directions, cues, description of
non-verbal action, and so on; in the following example, ND ("not
dialogue"), has been used and is being proposed to fill this need:

<dd><nd>[obviously lying]</nd> Sorry, we're just closing for lunch</dd>

5. since there are many different contexts in which D is an
appropriate element/container, a dialogue element demands a role or
type attribute, in order to enable differentiation between types of
dialogue; a very preliminary list of predefined role values for D
* conversation
* dialogue (covers theater, film, fiction, where the element is used
to distinguish dialogue from other types of content)
* transcript

<d role="transcript>
<dd>Did you have any conversation with Brothman to the effect that
this information was going to the Russians?</dd>
<dd>I remember once he asked me if the Amtorg people l1ked what
they were getting.</dd>
<dd>Did you ever identify yourself to him as one who had worked for
the Amtorg?</dd>
<dd>No, I never had. I was introduced to him as his Communist Party
superior, and he was to give me dues and information.</dd>
<dd>Did he give you his Communist Party dues?</dd>
<dd>Yes, he did.</dd>
<dd>On how many occasions, would you say?</dd>
<dd>That would be hard to say. It wasn't every week, but it might be
roughly every month.</dd>

6. DL Should Give Structure to, Not Generically Indicate, Dialogue
* a DL is not a dialogue string, but a definition list; changing DL
to indicate dialogue, as some have proposed, is unnecessarily
overburdening DL
* there is a need for DL as a definition list -- it should not be
watered down to specifically refer to dialogue -- YES, dialogue
can be presented as a DL, where the DT is used to signify the
speaker, and the DD is used to contain the speaker's dialogue, but
that is using a DL to give structure to the dialog, not a
transfiguration of DL from "definition list" to "dialogue"; such a
change is unacceptable, as definition lists are well suited to
their long-established usage as "definition lists": an efficient
means of presenting information that is often unnecessarily
stuffed into gratuitous TABLE-ettes (as has become the lamentable
trend in specification publication)

<!-- example of dialogue contained in a definition list,
using text from Oscar Wilde's 'Importance of Being Earnest' -->

<d role="dialogue">
<dd>Why is it that at a bachelor's establishment the servants
invariably drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.</dd>

<dd>I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have
often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of
a first-rate brand.</dd>

<dd>Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralising as that?</dd>

<dd>I believe it <em>is</em> a very pleasant state, sir. I have had
very little experience of it myself up to the present. I have only
been married once. That was in consequence of a misunderstanding
between myself and a young person.</dd>

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$Id: 3.html,v 1.1 2011/01/03 13:53:52 dom Exp $