Inline markup considered harmful? (was RE: question for a friend)

David Megginson david at
Fri Jun 11 18:59:33 BST 1999

Richard Tobin writes:

 > Another solution, for some purposes, is to have two documents, one for
 > each hierarchy.  Of course, you don't want to to duplicate the data
 > itself.  We avoid this by using "standoff markup", which we implement
 > with XLinks (we have our own software to perform the transclusion
 > process).

Way back in the 1980's, about 40 Internet years ago, the computer part
Oxford English Dictionary project at the University of Waterloo
(Ontario) published a short monograph on this issue.  I no longer have
my copy, and remember neither the title nor author, but the premise
was that inline markup like SGML should be considered harmful, and
that out-of-line markup was much more flexible (since you can apply
more than one hierarchy to the same content).

Tim Bray knows the OED people much better than I do, and he might be
able to provide more useful details and/or correct my possibly-faulty
recollection of the thesis.

All the best,


David Megginson                 david at

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