Weak vs Strong Emphasis

Hi All,

I’m relatively new to CommonMark, love the idea and the implementations (recently contributed to CommonMark.NET).

Since we are already in a flurry of terminology changes, this seems to be as good time as any to propose disambiguating emphasis as follows:

  1. weak emphasis – inline content surrounded by single _ or * (essentially what’s called emphasis today)
  2. strong emphasis – inline content surrounded by __ or ** (unchanged from today)
  3. emphasis – encompasses 1 and 2.

It has been suggested elsewhere that stress emphasis and strong importance be used for 1 and 2 respectively, but I find that a far too radical departure from familiar terminology.

Any constructive feedback will be appreciated.

Update: W3C HTML5 notes on <em> and <strong> use the following abnomination:

  1. emphatic stress
  2. strong importance
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I’m favour of using the terminology “stress emphasis” and “strong importance”; maintaining consistency with HTML5 makes sense since that is the primary output format.

Definitions from the HTML5 spec:


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As much as I can relate to consistency with HTML (see another suggestion), I believe it (or its formal specification) should not be favored over other output formats.

The (cumbersome IMO) HTML terminology was intended as a breakaway from the <i> and <b> legacy, which CommonMark needs not be concerned with. Emphasis and strong emphasis, on the other hand, have been around for nearly twelve years, and replacing them should not be taken lightly.

However, if consistency with HTML5 terminology is deemed necessary, I’d reluctantly prefer emphatic stress over stress emphasis, as readers familiar with the current terms could easily confuse the latter with the visually similar strong emphasis.