Document Content

Nearly everything else you put into your HTML or XHTML document that isn’t a tag is by definition content, and the majority of that is text. Like tags, document content is encoded using a specific character set — by default, the ISO-8859-1 Latin character set. This character set is a superset of conventional ASCII, adding the necessary characters to support the Western European languages. If your keyboard does not allow you to directly enter the characters you need, you can use character entities to insert the desired characters.

Advice Versus Control

Perhaps the hardest rule to remember when marking up an HTML or XHTML document is that all the tags you insert regarding text display and formatting are only advice for the browser: they do not explicitly control how the browser will display the document. In fact, the browser can choose to ignore all of your tags and do what it pleases with the document content. What’s worse, the user (of all people!) has control over the text-display characteristics of his or her own browser.

Get used to this lack of control. The best way to use markup to control the appearance of your documents is to concentrate on the content of the document, not on its final appearance. If you find yourself worrying excessively about spacing, alignment, text breaks, and character positioning, you’ll surely end up with ulcers. You will have gone beyond the intent of HTML. If you focus on delivering information to users in an attractive manner, using ...

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