When to use attributes vs. elements

Andrew Layman andrewl at microsoft.com
Fri Feb 5 21:16:58 GMT 1999

Thank you.  Dan asks a reasonable question, which is whether a document that
uses the conventions described in
http://www.w3.org/TandS/QL/QL98/pp/microsoft-serializing.html needs to
signal somehow that these conventions are in play.

In case of the "canonical format" I proposed, however, I don't think special
signalling is necessary: The proposal does not add any new interpretations
to the use of elements or attributes beyond what can be described in a DTD
or a schema such as XML-Data or DCD.  Elements, attributes, ids and idrefs
are carefully used so that their normal XML interpretation matches the
scoping and linking rules of object graphs or relational databases.

In a general case, if conventions add rules for interpretation above what is
in the structure of a document or above what can be expressed in a DTD, then
this would need to be somehow signalled in order for a reader to process the

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