4.6.16 The i element

Flow content.
Phrasing content.
Palpable content.
Contexts in which this element can be used:
Where phrasing content is expected.
Content model:
Phrasing content.
Content attributes:
Global attributes
DOM interface:
Uses HTMLElement.

The i element represents a span of text in an alternate voice or mood, or otherwise offset from the normal prose in a manner indicating a different quality of text, such as a taxonomic designation, a technical term, an idiomatic phrase or short span of transliterated prose from another language, a thought, or a ship name in Western texts.

Terms in languages different from the main text should be annotated with lang attributes (or, in XML, lang attributes in the XML namespace).

The examples below show uses of the i element:

<p>The <i class="taxonomy">Felis silvestris catus</i> is cute.</p>
<p>The term <i>prose content</i> is defined above.</p>
<p>There is a certain <i lang="fr">je ne sais quoi</i> in the air.</p>

In the following example, a dream sequence is marked up using i elements.

<p>Raymond tried to sleep.</p>
<p><i>The ship sailed away on Thursday</i>, he
dreamt. <i>The ship had many people aboard, including a beautiful
princess called Carey. He watched her, day-in, day-out, hoping she
would notice him, but she never did.</i></p>
<p><i>Finally one night he picked up the courage to speak with
<p>Raymond woke with a start as the fire alarm rang out.</p>

Authors can use the class attribute on the i element to identify why the element is being used, so that if the style of a particular use (e.g. dream sequences as opposed to taxonomic terms) is to be changed at a later date, the author doesn't have to go through the entire document (or series of related documents) annotating each use.

Authors are encouraged to consider whether other elements might be more applicable than the i element, for instance the em element for marking up stress emphasis, or the dfn element to mark up the defining instance of a term.

Style sheets can be used to format i elements, just like any other element can be restyled. Thus, it is not the case that content in i elements will necessarily be italicized.