Separation of formatting...

Gregg Reynolds greyno at
Fri May 1 03:12:13 BST 1998

Steven R. Newcomb wrote:
> [Sean Mc Grath <digitome at>:]
> > Version 2 : SGML - Generic Markup
> >         <p><i>Customer</i>Joe Bloggs</p>
> Maybe the <p> is generic markup, but the <i>
> is procedural markup, not generic markup.
> > Version 3 : SGML - Data Modelling
> >         <Customer>Joe Bloggs</Customer>
> The above is generic markup, for sure.
> "Generic" means "according to kind".  "Generic markup" means markup
> that indicates *what kind of thing* is being delimited, rather than
> *what to do with the thing* that is being delimited.  The latter is
> usually called "procedural markup".

In light of the ongoing and eternal debate over just what markup
is/means/does, the following passages may interest you.  I think the
line between, on the one hand, what you call generic and what Paul (if I
understand him properly) calls abstract markup, and procedural or
formatting instructions is pretty thin when you look closely.  From "Ad
Herennium", usually attributed to Cicero:

"Colon or Clause is the name given to a sentence member, brief and
complete, which does not express the entire thought, but is in turn
supplemented by another colon, as follows:  'On the one hand you were
helping your enemy.'  That is one so-called colon; it ought then to be
supplemented by a second:  'And on the other you were hurting your
friend."  This figure can consist of two cola, but it is neatest and
most complete when composed of three, as follows:  'You were helping
your enemy, you were hurting your friend, and you were not consulting
your own best interests.'

(Was the modern editor just being a smarty-pants by omitting colons from
the quoted examples?)  Tully's not talking about written punctuation
marks here (markup), but about rhetorical techniques of the public
orator - phrasing, rhythm, delivery.  In other words, processing
instructions.  The text goes on to discuss "Comma or Phrase" and
"Period" among other things, all in terms of the orator's art.  Viewed
in this light, the common punctuation marks (including paragraph and
other layout conventions) which most of us probably think of as abstract
or generic demarcations of thought-units (or something like that), may
be viewed as notes on how delivery: distincly how-to.  Still works that
way, as anybody who's ever heard a recitation by a bad reader can

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