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

Robin Cover robin at
Fri Jun 11 20:01:28 BST 1999

On Fri, 11 Jun 1999, David Megginson wrote:

> 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).

Not from "Way back in the 1980s," but perhaps what you were
thinking of was Raymond's TR (an early version of the
monograph I reviewed was called "Markup Considered Harmful?".)


**See the HTML source for links:

Raymond, Darrell R.; Tompa, Frank Wm.; Wood, Derick. Markup
Reconsidered. Department of Computer Science, Technical Report No.
356. The University of Western Ontario, 1993. 20 pages, 32
references. ISBN: 0-7714-1504-4. 

Abstract: We describe some of the implications of markup for
document management systems. Markup's properties are inherited
from text, since it is embedded in text. These properties are most
advantageous when document structure is reducible to substrings of
characters, and when the update characteristics of the structure are
similar to the update characteristics of the text. We describe
situations in which these characteristics are disadvantageous.
Markup is not a data model, but one of several possible techniques
for representing structure. For this reason it should not be the
foundation of document management systems.

Also available under the title [Technical Report] OED-93-01, UW
Centre for the New Oxford English Dictionary, University of Waterloo
(April 1993). A presentation under the same title was given at the
First International Workshop on Principles of Document Processing,
Washington, D.C. (October 21-23, 1992). An earlier version
(unpublished") was written as "Markup Considered Harmful" and a
related work was entitled "Reading Between the Tags: An Appraisal
of Descriptive Markup" ["Markup Considered Harmful"?]. The UWO
version of the paper is available via FTP to UWO; The report is
also available in PostScript format from UWaterloo, or here.

- Robin Cover

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