Sunday 4 December 2005

XHTML Anatomy: A Document Deconstructed

SOME THINGS START SMALL AND GROW BIG. That’s exactly what’s happened with an idea I have. I want to put together a human-readable glossary or lookup chart for commonly used terms within XHTML and CSS. I’m a known nomenclature fanatic. I love words and I believe that improving our use of proper terminology helps us communicate more effectively. What’s more, I’ve been technical editor on several upcoming books and it continues to disturb me that many very bright, skilled and knowledgeable leaders in our industry get terminology wrong, or are inconsistent in their descriptions. You know who you are.

So, a glossary. Seems simple enough. I began with the W3C’s glossaries, which are completely vague and overly-complicated. I’m sure you’re all so surprised. Okay, that wasn’t a good model. Then, I began to think that a good approach would be to deconstruct documents, discuss terminology, best practices and maybe add some interesting asides. And then extract a glossary from those documents.

As you can see, what started out as a small idea has grown into a big one. It’s going to take a while to get the glossary together, but in the meantime I’ve begun to deconstruct documents and cite terms. While much of the information is going to be well-known to the intermediate and advanced reader, I could use your help in gathering up the cited terms and providing clear, easy-to-understand definitions for them. You can just add your suggestions to the comments, and I’ll grab them and coordinate them.

What’s more, there’s a gem or two in the deconstruction, including an example of a completely valid headless, body-less, HTML 3.2 document.

Continue reading . . .

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 03:08 | Comments (13)

Comments (13)

  1. The HTML, HEAD and BODY elements are required. The tags are optional. Really.

    See tags vs elements. (It’s an old post, but it states this explicitly plus has some additional information on what a tag is and what an element.)

  2. What I also meant to say was that this not merely applies to HTML 3.2. This applies to HTML4 as well. Until I decide to use <input type=”search”> my homepage validates as HTML4.01 Strict and has no HTML, HEAD and BODY start or closing tags.

  3. Anne: thanks. I fixed in in the text. Noted here for clarity. Much appreciated clarification!

  4. Whoops, looks like Word or SmartyPants or some other software is getting in the way. Your double quotes are showing up as “ and &#8221, instead of “

  5. And my ‘instead of’ example shouldn’t be curly, of course. Must be SmartyPants

  6. Hey Dave,

    I think the problem should be fixed now. Thanks for the heads up on that 🙂

  7. Should be a great time saver and an excellent edition to my other glossaries once it is done.Look forward to seeing a finished product.Was going to suggest antoher term to add but clicked over to the second page and saw there you already added it.

  8. Kudos Molly! Sounds like a great project and an equally great resource. I’ll lend a hand if I can.

  9. How rare. Hyperactive Kid’s Korner up there.
    This looks great. Any plans for a CSS anatomy?

  10. The text still talks about optional HTML, HEAD and BODY elements instead of tags. The elements are really required.

  11. html, head (and its child title) and body are all required, as is the DOCTYPE declaration — under XHTML.

    If you want a complete deconstruction of DOCTYPE, you can read part 3 of my series on building XHTML pages with PHP:

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