underscore and italic policy

Sam Joseph srjoseph at hawaii.edu
Fri Jul 7 22:08:00 EDT 2006

Hi Michel,

Michel Fortin wrote:

> Le 30 juin 2006 à 16:51, A. Pagaltzis a écrit :


>> The only reason that this hasn’t changed, I think, is that

>> unfortunately no new releases have happened in a long time.


> I'm not sure that's the only reason. John has been reluctant to

> change this part of the syntax now that we're past version 1.0 and

> that some people may be using that particular feature.

Do we have any *actual* examples of people using this feature

> In my opinion, the backward compatibility argument has merit,

> especially since in some languages (like Japanese) "words" aren't

> separated by a space character like in western languages. Such a

> change would break any emphasis already written with underscores in

> these languages; someone would have to either manually edit all of

> the texts to change underscores to asterisks or stick to the current

> version of Markdown.

I understand your point in principle, but I don't think Japanese
websites actually use italic. I read and write Japanese and my wife is
Japanese and we've never seen italics used in a Japanese language
website. Although of course it's conceivable it's used somwhere we
haven't seen, and of course we can't speak for other languages which
don't use spaces.

> On the other side, I admit that I've changed the behaviour when

> making PHP Markdown Extra and got only positive comments about it.

> This particular problem seems to pop up regularly both on this list

> and in emails I receive. I think this was the main reason I decided

> to implement the change to my "Extra" syntax, were backward

> compatibility was less of an issue.

Makes sense - I've created a patch for ruby BlueCloth which implements
Markdown, and will run my own "no embedded italics" in our site.

> Here is what I think could be a good, long-term solution: Markdown

> (the syntax) could change and remove underscore-emphasis within words

> while Markdown (the tool) could offer a "backward-compatible mode"

> preserving the old behaviour. This would solve the issue while still

> giving the possibility to upgrade Markdown to those relying on the

> old syntax, with the only hassle of setting a configuration variable.

Sounds like a reasonable proposal, although clearly there are now
multiple Markdown tools. I guess that John is the only person who can
make changes to the actual standard, whereas individual maintainers of
tools are responsible for changes to the tools ...


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