Alternate voice or mood (<i> tag in HTML5)


#1

Markdown does not contain syntax for the <i> tag. Although this was a presentational tag in older versions of HTML, it has been redefined to have semantic meaning in HTML5. From the spec:

The i element represents a span of text in an alternate voice or mood, or otherwise offset from the normal prose in a manner indicating a different quality of text, such as a taxonomic designation, a technical term, an idiomatic phrase from another language, transliteration, a thought, or a ship name in Western texts.

I read through the recently published draft specification for Markua (the replacement for Leanpub Flavored Markdown). It contains some thought provoking points and ideas, some of which could be considered for CommonMark. The draft spec for Markua adds Markdown-style syntax for alternative voice. It does this by redefining the use of the underscore surrounding text for <i>, while keeping asterisks for emphasis (<em>).

This: This is some _italicized with an old-school but now semantic i tag_ text.

Produces: <p>This is some <i>italicized with an old-school but now semantic i tag</i> text.</p>

This breaks compatibility with Markdown, but is understandable. This may not be the best approach for CommonMark, given that authors of older Markdown documents may have intended the underscores to mean emphasis rather than alternative voice. I thought it would be worth looking at, at least.

Since alternative voice is quite commonly used in prose, Markdown-style syntax of some kind would be beneficial as a CommonMark extension. Besides Markua, I don’t know of any flavours that have specified syntax for it.


Em/strong vs. i/b or cite/dfn etc
A proposal to support the <mark> tag with Markdown
#2

Not sure if this should be implemented as an extension or not.
Ideally the AST could save the marker so the renderer can opt to use <i>.


#3

It might be better use a separate marker (rather than an underscore) for alternative voice. The problem with using an underscore as the marker is that legacy Markdown documents may intend for the underscore to mean emphasis.

The intention of CommonMark is to be as true to the original Markdown spec as possible, whereas Markua intentionally breaks backward compatibility in places (in order to improve the syntax). Different project goals.


#4

Perhaps a forward slash could be used as the start and end marker, so long as it is preceded by a space or is at the start of a new line? Visually, a forward slash is slanted like italics.

Valid: I am a member of the species /homo sapiens/.

Invalid: No space, so this will render the forward slash normally: homo/sapiens/.

Modified examples from the HTML5 spec page:

The /Felis silvestris catus/ is cute.

The term /prose content/ is defined above.

There is a certain /je ne sais quoi/ in the air.
<p>The <i>Felis silvestris catus</i> is cute.</p>
<p>The term <i>prose content</i> is defined above.</p>
<p>There is a certain <i>je ne sais quoi</i> in the air.</p>

Dream sequence example:

Raymond tried to sleep.

/The ship sailed away on Thursday/, he
dreamt. /The ship had many people aboard, including a beautiful
princess called Carey. He watched her, day-in, day-out, hoping she
would notice him, but she never did./

/Finally one night he picked up the courage to speak with
her—/

Raymond woke with a start as the fire alarm rang out.
<p>Raymond tried to sleep.</p>
<p><i>The ship sailed away on Thursday</i>, he
dreamt. <i>The ship had many people aboard, including a beautiful
princess called Carey. He watched her, day-in, day-out, hoping she
would notice him, but she never did.</i></p>
<p><i>Finally one night he picked up the courage to speak with
her—</i></p>
<p>Raymond woke with a start as the fire alarm rang out.</p>

Beyond Markdown
#5

“/” vs “\” isn’t exactly wonderful.