← 3 Semantics, structure, and APIs of HTML documentsTable of contents3.2.3 Global attributes →
    1. 3.2 Elements
      1. 3.2.1 Semantics
      2. 3.2.2 Elements in the DOM

3.2 Elements

3.2.1 Semantics

Elements, attributes, and attribute values in HTML are defined (by this specification) to have certain meanings (semantics). For example, the ol element represents an ordered list, and the lang attribute represents the language of the content.

Authors must not use elements, attributes, or attribute values for purposes other than their appropriate intended semantic purpose. Authors must not use elements, attributes, or attribute values that are not permitted by this specification or other applicable specifications.

For example, the following document is non-conforming, despite being syntactically correct:

<html lang="en-GB">
 <head> <title> Demonstration </title> </head>
   <tr> <td> My favourite animal is the cat. </td> </tr>
     —<a href="http://example.org/~ernest/"><cite>Ernest</cite></a>,
     in an essay from 1992

...because the data placed in the cells is clearly not tabular data (and the cite element mis-used). A corrected version of this document might be:

<html lang="en-GB">
 <head> <title> Demonstration </title> </head>
   <p> My favourite animal is the cat. </p>
   —<a href="http://example.org/~ernest/">Ernest</a>,
   in an essay from 1992

This next document fragment, intended to represent the heading of a corporate site, is similarly non-conforming because the second line is not intended to be a heading of a subsection, but merely a subheading or subtitle (a subordinate heading for the same section).

 <h1>ABC Company</h1>
 <h2>Leading the way in widget design since 1432</h2>

The hgroup element is intended for these kinds of situations:

  <h1>ABC Company</h1>
  <h2>Leading the way in widget design since 1432</h2>

In the next example, there is a non-conforming attribute value ("carpet") and a non-conforming attribute ("texture"), which is not permitted by this specification:

<label>Carpet: <input type="carpet" name="c" texture="deep pile"></label>

Here would be an alternative and correct way to mark this up:

<label>Carpet: <input type="text" class="carpet" name="c" data-texture="deep pile"></label>

Through scripting and using other mechanisms, the values of attributes, text, and indeed the entire structure of the document may change dynamically while a user agent is processing it. The semantics of a document at an instant in time are those represented by the state of the document at that instant in time, and the semantics of a document can therefore change over time. User agents update their presentation of the document as this occurs.

HTML has a progress element that describes a progress bar. If its "value" attribute is dynamically updated by a script, the UA would update the rendering to show the progress changing.

3.2.2 Elements in the DOM

The nodes representing HTML elements in the DOM implement, and expose to scripts, the interfaces listed for them in the relevant sections of this specification. This includes HTML elements in XML documents, even when those documents are in another context (e.g. inside an XSLT transform).

Elements in the DOM represent things; that is, they have intrinsic meaning, also known as semantics.

For example, an ol element represents an ordered list.

The basic interface, from which all the HTML elements' interfaces inherit, is the HTMLElement interface.

interface HTMLElement : Element {
  // DOM tree accessors
  NodeList getElementsByClassName(in DOMString classNames);

  // dynamic markup insertion
           attribute DOMString innerHTML;
           attribute DOMString outerHTML;
  void insertAdjacentHTML(in DOMString position, in DOMString text);

  // metadata attributes
           attribute DOMString id;
           attribute DOMString title;
           attribute DOMString lang;
           attribute DOMString dir;
           attribute DOMString className;
  readonly attribute DOMTokenList classList;
  readonly attribute DOMStringMap dataset;

  // user interaction
           attribute boolean hidden;
  void click();
           attribute long tabIndex;
  void focus();
  void blur();
           attribute DOMString accessKey;
  readonly attribute DOMString accessKeyLabel;
           attribute boolean draggable;
  [PutForwards=value] attribute DOMSettableTokenList dropzone;
           attribute DOMString contentEditable;
  readonly attribute boolean isContentEditable;
           attribute HTMLMenuElement contextMenu;
           attribute boolean spellcheck;

  // command API
  readonly attribute DOMString commandType;
  readonly attribute DOMString label;
  readonly attribute DOMString icon;
  readonly attribute boolean disabled;
  readonly attribute boolean checked;
  // styling
  readonly attribute CSSStyleDeclaration style;

  // event handler IDL attributes
           attribute Function onabort;
           attribute Function onblur;
           attribute Function oncanplay;
           attribute Function oncanplaythrough;
           attribute Function onchange;
           attribute Function onclick;
           attribute Function oncontextmenu;
           attribute Function oncuechange;
           attribute Function ondblclick;
           attribute Function ondrag;
           attribute Function ondragend;
           attribute Function ondragenter;
           attribute Function ondragleave;
           attribute Function ondragover;
           attribute Function ondragstart;
           attribute Function ondrop;
           attribute Function ondurationchange;
           attribute Function onemptied;
           attribute Function onended;
           attribute Function onerror;
           attribute Function onfocus;
           attribute Function oninput;
           attribute Function oninvalid;
           attribute Function onkeydown;
           attribute Function onkeypress;
           attribute Function onkeyup;
           attribute Function onload;
           attribute Function onloadeddata;
           attribute Function onloadedmetadata;
           attribute Function onloadstart;
           attribute Function onmousedown;
           attribute Function onmousemove;
           attribute Function onmouseout;
           attribute Function onmouseover;
           attribute Function onmouseup;
           attribute Function onmousewheel;
           attribute Function onpause;
           attribute Function onplay;
           attribute Function onplaying;
           attribute Function onprogress;
           attribute Function onratechange;
           attribute Function onreadystatechange;
           attribute Function onreset;
           attribute Function onscroll;
           attribute Function onseeked;
           attribute Function onseeking;
           attribute Function onselect;
           attribute Function onshow;
           attribute Function onstalled;
           attribute Function onsubmit;
           attribute Function onsuspend;
           attribute Function ontimeupdate;
           attribute Function onvolumechange;
           attribute Function onwaiting;

interface HTMLUnknownElement : HTMLElement { };

The HTMLElement interface holds methods and attributes related to a number of disparate features, and the members of this interface are therefore described in various different sections of this specification.