What is Semantic HTML
Semantic HTML or semantic markup is HTML that introduces meaning to the web page rather than just presentation. For example, a
<p> tag indicates that the enclosed text is a paragraph. This is both semantic and presentational, because people know what a “paragraph” is and browsers know how to display them. In HTML4* tags like
<i> are not semantic, because they define only how the text should look (bold or italic) and do not provide any meaning to the text.
Other examples of semantic HTML tags include the header tags
<em>. And there are lots of other semantic HTML tags.
Why Care About Semantics
The benefit of writing semantic HTML stems from the goal of a web page—to communicate. And by adding semantic tags to your documents, you are providing additional information about your document, which aids in communication.
Semantic HTML tags provide information about the contents of those tags that goes beyond just how they look on a page. Text that is enclosed in the
<code> tag is immediately recognized by the browser as some type of coding language. It is entirely possible that some user agent could create an entire code library just by reading a website's
In a less futuristic scenario, using semantic tags gives you many more hooks for styling your content. This means that perhaps today you prefer to have your code samples display in the default browser style. But then tomorrow, you want to call them out with a gray background color, and later you want to define the precise mono-spaced font family or font stack to use for your samples. If you have all your code samples defined with the semnatic
<code> tag, this is very easy to do.
Use Semantic Tags Correctly
When you start to use semantic tags to convey meaning rather than presentation, you need to be careful that you don't use them incorectly simply for their common display properties. Some of the most commonly misused semantic tags include:
Some people use the
<blockquotetag for indenting text that is not a quotation. Use CSS margins instead.
There are a couple of web editors that use
<p> </p>to add extra space between page elements, rather than defining actual paragraphs. Like with indenting, you should use the
marginstyle property to add space.
Like blockquote, enclosing text inside a
<ul>tag will indent that text in most browsers. But this is both semantically incorrect, and invalid HTML, as only
<li>tags are valid within a ul tag. Again, use the
marginstyle to indent text.
The header tags can be used to make fonts bigger and bolder, but if the text is not a headline, it should not be inside a headline tag. Use the
font-sizeCSS properties instead.
By using HTML tags that have meaning, you create pages that impart more information than by just surrounding everything with
<div> tags. And by using semantic HTML tags, you are using tags with meanings.
What HTML Tags are Semantic
While nearly every HTML4 tag and all the HTML5 tags have a semantic meaning, there are some tags that are primarily semantic in nature.
* HTML5 has redefined the meaning of the
<i> tags to be semantic. The
<b> tag doesn't convey extra importance, but rather text that is typically rendered in bold. The
<i> tag also doesn't convey extra importance or emphasis, but rather defines text that is typically rendered in italics.
Semantic HTML Tags
||Address for author(s) of the document|
||Generic inline style container|
||First level headline|
||Second level headline|
||Third level headline|
||Fourth level headline|
||Fifth level headline|
||Sixth level headline|
||Text to be entered by the user|
||Short inline quotation|
||Variable or user defined text|