[thelist] Re: Hn tags

Techwatcher techwatcher at accesswriters.com
Tue Jun 25 12:20:00 CDT 2002

Any professional writer understands Hn tags, because any writer has
used headings. I still don't understand why so many others don't get it.

Didn't everyone here write at least one major (10-20 pages anyway)
academic paper during their school career? Wasn't there some title at
the top of your page (the H1 tag, since "title" is reserved for the
browser window when online)?

Didn't you need to divide some of your content, break it up -- over and
above the normal paragraph breaks? Remember that Tim B-L first designed
the Web with the idea that this would be how academic and scientific
folks communicated, with ease -- fast and intuitive formatting, okay? A
physicist (hi profession) might want to write a paper to a colleague
quickly describing the exciting results of his latest experiment. The
online version would have a top heading (h1 -- really its title), and
perhaps a section describing the null, and alternate hypothesis
(hypotheses), a section describing why this experiment was conceived
(or a "literature review" type of section), a results section.

Each of these sections would be marked off with a littler subheading
(h2's, mostly). Some might want a discussion or even a digression
within results, perhaps, "a my next experiment would be" sort of thing.
That might call for an H3 within the results H2.

Headings aren't quite like outlines, because an outline requires at
least 2 of each level. (If you use an A within I, there should be a B
also within I.) There are no requirements about how many of each there
should be, but it just makes sense that you want to divide up your
major topics using the same-level separator (i.e., an H2). IF (and
that's a big IF!) you need more divisions, throw them in, as many as
you want. But there's no reason after getting down to an H4 that
you "should" go up a little bit within that section (to an h3) instead
of dropping that to handle your next major topic (presumably the h2).

If you ever wrote any kind of business analysis for the boss or
yourself, and decided "this kind" of heading should be bold, centered,
and 14 pt, as opposed to some other kind of text which should be bold
but not centered, you have used headings. Did you try to force yourself
to go "up" sequentially? Of course not. Of course you just go "down" as
many levels as you need. Then you start at the top again with your next
subheading (h2, usually). Even if your last subheading was h4, or h5,
or h6.

If Web writers would just think of the heading as BEING its content,
instead of having ANYTHING to do with formatting, they'd be all right!
(And that's why some Web folks think of it as "fluffy" -- to some, all
content is fluffy, isn't it!)

Note: In older sites, I sometimes used H1 for the site's
identification, so my "title" for the page was an H2, and everything
else was H3 or H4. (Some older browsers rendered the H5 tag as a quick-
and-dirty subscript and H6 for superscript; in any case, one ought not
to use more than 4 levels of hierarchy in structuring information. Now
don't flame me about that, I know we often have numbered lists within
fourth-level divisions and so on... But research in cognitive
psychology supports this position.)

Cheers --
Carol Stein
techwatcher at accesswriters.com
> > From: "fstorr" <fffrancis at fstorr.demon.co.uk>
> [...]
> > Okay, so this is good.  Being structurally "picky" I suppose there
> > should definitely be only 1 H1 tag on a page, maybe one H2, and then
> > as many of the "lesser" Hn tags as needed. But what if you then need
> > to back up an Hn level?  From, say, H3 to H2 - is this allowed?
> > what I've read so far, there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer,
> > it depends on author preference.  Even this from the html spec:
> actually, according the ISO HTML i posted, yes, that is allowed...
> > http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/struct/global.html#edef-H1 "Some people
> > consider skipping heading levels to be bad practice. They accept H1
> > H1 while they do not accept H1 H3 H1 since the heading level H2 is
> > skipped."
> >
> > There's a degree of "fluffyness" there that just seems to say "use
> > whatever you want, it's up to you".
> the fact that people are discussing this means that they are,
> ideally, using <h#> for structural purposes, and not because it's a
> particular size or weight... and that's a good thing, IMO...

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