A Modest Definition List Proposal

David E. Wheeler david at kineticode.com
Wed Feb 18 18:53:31 EST 2009

On Feb 18, 2009, at 3:40 PM, Aristotle Pagaltzis wrote:

> * David E. Wheeler <david at kineticode.com> [2009-02-19 00:00]:

>> Although I think that it's a bit of a red herring.


> I don’t know. John has stated that one of his rules when making

> design decisions is how likely it is that users will trigger a

> particular interpretation accidentally when they *don’t* want it.

> Another is how likely is it that they will choose this construct

> when writing in plaintext outside of a pre-assumed context that

> the document is Markdown.

Right. I actually think that using ~ as a range operator (essentially)
is fairly rare outside of electronic circles, at least in US English.

> The tilde doesn’t seem any more likely to be chosen independently

> than the colon-based syntaxes, and seems significantly more

> likely to be used for other meanings.

Hrm. I disagree. It's pretty rare outside of personal URLs, IME. And
it's a very nice bullet character, not unlike -.

> I don’t want to be down on your proposal or anything – it really

> looks a whole lot nicer to a reader of the plaintext version.


> But I think it is a significantly more problematic choice when

> considering marginally-proficient (or in the context of something

> like weblog comments, possibly entirely unaware!) writers of

> Markdown.


> Thorny problem. :-(

I don't think it's too problematic, as tildes are pretty rare.

However, one other thing I did play around with, since really I was
just looking for a much better character than “:” to use as a bullet,
was an old friend, “o”:

Term 1:

o This is a definition with two paragraphs. Lorem ipsum
dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aliquam
hendrerit mi posuere lectus.

Vestibulum enim wisi, viverra nec, fringilla in, laoreet
vitae, risus.

o Second definition for term 1, also wrapped in a paragraph
because of the blank line preceding it.

Term 2:

o This definition has a code block, a blockquote and a list.

code block.

> block quote
> on two lines.

1. first list item
2. second list item

I still prefer ~, as it's more distinctive and offers more useful
mnemonics, but I think that o might get around the issues you raise.
Still, it looks pretty crappy in the single-line syntax, as it's not
really a separator in the same way that ~ is:

Term 1 o Definition a blah blah blah blah blah
Term 2 o Definition b foo bar baz
Term 3 o Definition c even more blah blah blah

Thanks for your comments.



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