[Logo] Declarative Markup:
An Annotated Bibliography

This list Do you know of a declarative markup resource that’s missing from this list? Do you have an annotation to add? The bibliography is a community effort, please contribute! Details below. of works about declarative markup is, as all such lists must be, incomplete and based on the opinions of the contributors. The intent is to make available the widely scattered literature on the philosophy of markup that has been variously called “generic markup”, “descriptive markup”, and “declarative markup”. Works that have sections that are about declarative markup are within scope for this list, especially if annotated to point to the portion of the document that is about declarative markup per se. Works that are about particular declarative markup languages, declarative programming, XML, CSS, or any of hundreds of related concepts but that do not directly address declarative markup should be in the “Related Concepts” appendix of this bibliography, not in the body of the document.

Annotations on this list are used to describe the work, point to portions of a work that are particularly relevant to declarative markup, and provide the annotator’s opinion on the work. All annotations should be signed by the annotator. We ask that if you disagree with an annotation you write an additional annotation with your point of view; do not edit, remove, or replace some else’s annotation.

About Declarative Markup per se


“Content Management and the Separation of Presentation and Content.” by David P. Clark

Clark, David P. “Content Management and the Separation of Presentation and Content.” Technical Communication Quarterly 17.1. (2008): 35-60. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10572250701588624

The importance of separating presentation from content is taken as a given in many kinds of publishing, despite the fact that the notion of separation has received little critical scrutiny. I provide a closer look at the separation, first by providing contemporary and historical context, then by laying out key distinctions in the ways the separation argument is used in Web design versus Web content management versus full-featured content management systems (CMSs). I suggest that these distinctions are critical in how we should view the separation and the implications of the separation for the work of technical communicators.

annotation source: publisher’s abstract


“Markup Overlap: A Review and a Horse” by Steven DeRose


This oft-cited paper is both a review of various solutions to the overlap problem, and a recommendation of yet another solution called HORSE. This solution, a clever style of typed segment-boundary delimiter (see TEI MLW18) has become a particularly popular method for handling overlap. It was even recommended to the TEI-C by the Special Interest Group on Overlap. See also my response to this paper.

annotated by: Syd Bauman


“Are we losing the declarative Web?” by Philip Fennell


“I’m an unashamed fan of the XML stack and because of it, the declarative web too.”

annotation source: quote from the document


“Extremes of XML” by Philip Fennell

Conference proceedings, XML London 2013. https://xmllondon.com/2013/xmllondon-2013-proceedings.pdf#page=80

“The Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a meta language, it is used to describe other languages and as such it has been phenomenally successful, it has been drawn into just about every information domain imaginable, not to mention some you really can’t… When looking at the extremes of XML, what I find fascinating is not how much or how fast but the breadth of applications to which XML has been applied, and this is what one could call the ‘XML Envelope’.”

annotation source: quote from the document


“Evolution and use of generic markup languages” by P. L. Gennusa

Gennusa P.L. (1999) Evolution and use of generic markup languages. In: Möhr W., Schmidt I. (eds) SGML und XML. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-46881-0_2

A chapter in a book on SGML and XML. Most of the book is in German, this chapter and one other are in English.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin


“Separate content and presentation” by Sarah Horton


“The Web is a medium designed to remove access requirements and to make content accessible to all. … The key to device independence and universal access is in the separation of content and presentation.”

annotation source: quote from the document


“Why Use Semantic HTML?” by Jennifer Kyrnin


“Creating web documents that have meaning behind the page rendered in a browser is very important. Here are some pointers as to how to understand and write semantic markup.”

annotation source: quote from the document


“Developing SGML DTDs: From Text to Model to Markup” by Eve Maler and Jeanne El Andaloussi


The first, best, and most authoratitive book on design of markup vocabularies. While the examples are all SGML (obsolete for all of us) and the syntax is DTDs (still in use in some communities but clearly not au courant), the point of this book is the logic behind vocabulary design and that is absoultely still current. For the reader interested in declarative markup and too impatient to read the whole book I suggest starting with Section 4.1.2. “Learning to Recognize Semantic Components”.

The reader may also be interested in a blog entry in “Pushing String” about this book: http://www.xmlgrrl.com/blog/publications/developing-sgml-dtds/

annotated by: B. T. Usdin


“The importance of semantic markup” by George Ornbo


“Creating web documents that have meaning behind the page rendered in a browser is very important. Here are some pointers as to how to understand and write semantic markup.”

annotation source: quote from the document


“The Power of the Declarative” by Steven Pemberton


A short slide presentation about declarative markup, emphasizing its power and compactness

annotated by: B. T. Usdin


“The 100 Year Web: In Praise of XML” by Steven Pemberton

Pemberton, Steven. “The 100 Year Web: In Praise of XML.” Presented at Balisage: The Markup Conference 2018, Washington, DC, July 31 - August 3, 2018. In Proceedings of Balisage: The Markup Conference 2018. Balisage Series on Markup Technologies, vol. 21 (2018). https://doi.org/10.4242/BalisageVol21.Pemberton01.


“Beyond the ‘descriptive vs. procedural’ distinction” by Wendell Piez


This 2001 paper has lost the link to its CSS but the content is as relevant now as it ever was. See particularly the section “Generic markup as a form of rhetoric”.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin


“Format and Content: Should they be separated? Can they be?” by Wendell Piez


Conventionally, XML design and application methodologies propose that the format in which we create, store and maintain documentary data be isolated from the format of its presentation: this doctrine is usually designated as the “separation of format from content”, and the advantages of the layered architecture it implies are often cited as a compelling rationale for XML as a standards-based markup technology. Yet experienced markup designers know that in practice, the separation is often more easily described than achieved, and that this design decision (like any other) involves tradeoffs.

annotated source: Excerpt from the document abstract


“The Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) for Humanities Publishing” by Joan M. Smith


This announcement of the SGML Standard features generic markup. Even the abstract is more about generic markup than about SGML itself.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin

TEI Consortium

TEI: A Gentle Introduction to XML


An excellent introduction. The section: Descriptive Markup is a short, clear, description of declarative markup and the rest of the document is an excellent discussion of how XML and declarative markup work together.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin


“The semantics of ‘semantic’” by B. Tommie Usdin


Readers interested in generic markup should start reading at the heading “The word ‘semantic’”. From that abstract: There was a time when I knew what the word “semantic” meant. That was a long time ago. Since then many people, on many occasions, in many contexts, have corrected my misunderstanding of the meaning of semantic. Perhaps it means nothing, or everything. Or perhaps I’m simply misinformed.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin


“YAMC? Why are we here? Why are we here again?” by B. Tommie Usdin

Usdin, B. Tommie. “YAMC? Why are we here? Why are we here again?” Presented at Balisage: The Markup Conference 2018, Washington, DC, July 31 - August 3, 2018. In Proceedings of Balisage: The Markup Conference 2018. Balisage Series on Markup Technologies, vol. 21 (2018). https://doi.org/10.4242/BalisageVol21.Usdin02.

Transcript of a talk. Readers interested in declarative markup may want to skip the first few paragraphs which are about the conference rather than markup.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin


“Brief History of Document Markup” by Dennis G. Watson


This short document includes a very clear description of generic markup.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin


Short definition in Webster online


Webster’s Dictionary online almost has it. The reference to SGML is confusing a specific syntax that can, but is not necessarily generic markup with the main principle of generic or declarative markup.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin

Declarative Markup Uses

Documents about languages that are declarative, uses of declarative markup, and other topics that are germain to a discussion of declarative markup but are not primarily about declarative markup as a concept


“The Rhetorical Nature of XML: Constructing Knowledge in Networked Environments” by Applen & McDaniel

Applen, J., McDaniel, R. (2009). The Rhetorical Nature of XML. New York: Routledge.

Simultaneously the best and the worst book on XML i’ve ever read (with apologies to the authors if they are reading this) - the technical misunderstandings about XML are deep (e.g., no, + doesn’t mean it’s optional in a DTD). This book is recommended highly for its perspectives but be warned that the more technical parts contain a lot of mistakes; Chapters 1, 3, and 7 are particularly helpful.

annotated by: Liam Quin


“Structured Writing: Rhetoric and Process” by Mark Baker

“Baker explains what structured writing is and how you can use different structures to achieve different purposes. The book focuses on how you can partition and manage the complexity of the content creation process using structured writing techniques to ensure that everything is handled by the person or process with the skills, time, and resources to handle it effectively.”

annotation source: Description of the book by Richard Hamilton at http://xmlpress.net/2018/09/11/structured-writing-rhetoric-and-process/


“Cascading Style Sheets” by Håkon Wium Lie

http://www.wiumlie.no/2006/phd/ http://www.wiumlie.no/2006/phd/css.pdf Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor Philosophiœ Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences University of Oslo Norway 2005

From the Overview:

Chapter 2: Structured documents

Style sheet languages and structured documents are mutually dependent. Without style sheets, structured documents cannot be presented, and without structured documents there is nothing for style sheets to present. Chapter 2 starts by introducing the ladder of abstraction which is proposed as a measuring tool for structured document formats. Such formats developed prior to the web (Scribe, LaTeX, ODA, SGML) and for the web (HTML, XML) are described. Finally, the role of transformation languages vs. style sheet languages is discussed.

Chapter 3: Style sheets prior to the web

Chapter 3 is the first chapter in which style sheets are discussed in some detail. The first part of the chapter establishes a set of criteria for style sheet languages; in order to qualify as a style sheet language six components must be present: syntax, selectors, properties, values and units, value propagation and a formatting model. Three style sheet languages developed before the Web (FOSI, DSSSL and P94) are described. The historical background of each is followed by a technical review.

Chapter 4: Style sheet proposals for the web

This chapter is a survey of the style sheet languages that were proposed for the web in the period 1993-1996. Nine different proposals are reviewed according to the criteria established in the previous chapter.

Obviously, the rest of the thesis would be of particular interest to a reader interested in the declarative markup known as CSS.

Its glossary definition of ‘declarative language’ may also be of interest:

declarative language

A declarative language is a general term for languages which express relationships between variables, as opposed to imperative languages which specify explicit sequences of steps to be followed, in order to produce a result. Often, declarative languages are not Turing-complete, while imperative languages are. All style sheet languages described in this thesis are declarative.

annotated by: Tony Graham


“The World Wide Success That Is XML” by Liam Quin


Most of the XML Working Groups have been closed by now; this year saw XQuery and XSLT close, their work successfully completed.

As we wind down work on standardizing the XML stack at W3C it’s worth looking at some of what we have accomplished and why. W3C XML, the Extensible Markup Language, is one of the world’s most widely-used formats for representing and exchanging information. The final XML stack is more powerful and easier to work with than many people know, especially for people who might not have used XML since its early days.

annotated source: excerpt from the document

Other Collections of Markup-related Materials

Balisage Series on Markup Technologies

Proceedings of Balisage starting in 2008


Balisage is an annual conference devoted to the theory and practice of descriptive markup and related technologies for structuring and managing information.

annotated from the conference web site

Cover Pages

The Cover Pages at OASIS


Frozen in 2010, the Cover Pages are a detailed record of the development of SGML and XML, including descriptions of events, products, and specifications. Many of the links still work; the value of this enormous resource will fade over time but as of 2018 it is still a treasure trove.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin

Extreme Markup Languages, Proceedings

Proceedings of Extreme Markup Languages 2001 - 2007


Extreme Markup Languages was a conference series devoted to Markup Languages, including but not limited to SGML and XML. Many people consider it the predecessor to "Balisage: The Markup Conference".

annotated by: B. T. Usdin

JATS-Con proceedings

JATS-Con conference proceedings


Starting in 2010, JATS-Con is a (mostly) annual event about the Journal Article Tag Suite and related XML vocabularies. The proceedings include formal articles, slides, and videos of presentations.

annotated by: B. T. Usdin


Proceedings of MarkupUK


Markup UK is a conference about XML and other mark-up languages

annotated from the conference web site


“XML.com” by Textuality


XML.com contains curated information aimed at professionals in fields where XML is widely used. These include publishing (for example, technical documentation and technical publishing) and healthcare (for example, HL7 and related work).

from the site

XML London, Proceedings

Proceedings of the XML London conference

2016 http://xmllondon.com/2016/xmllondon-2016-proceedings.pdf

2015 http://xmllondon.com/2015/xmllondon-2015-proceedings.pdf

2014 http://xmllondon.com/2014/xmllondon-2014-proceedings.pdf

2013 http://xmllondon.com/2013/xmllondon-2013-proceedings.pdf

A 2 day conference for XML, Linked Data and W3C technology users to discuss their experiences while discovering the latest innovations and what others are doing in the industry.

annotated from the conference web site

XML Prague, Proceedings

XML Prague Archive


Sessions and posters from XML Prague starting in 2005 include PDF of the proceedings and video of presentations starting in 2007.

annotated from the conference web site

How to Contribute

Markup Declaration wants your input!

If you know of a resource that’s missing from this bibliography, or if you have an annotation to add, please contribute!

For each entry, we need the title of the work, the names of the author or authors, and an annotation. If the annotation is an excerpt from the work, that’s all you have to say. If it’s a personal comment on the work, please include your name as you’d like it to be published. (You can see how we’ll format that and put it on the page by looking at the examples above.)

There are three options for contributing:

  1. If you want, you can just send it to us.

  2. A little more work for you, but a little easier for us, would be to create an issue that contains the details needed for the bibliography.

  3. Finally, if you’re comfortable with GitHub and HTML, feel free to fork the repository, edit _pages/04_01_bibliography.html, and send us a pull request

    The markup is a little bit odd, we concede, because some of the publishing mechanics (Jekyll) bleed through into the content. We may try to fix that in the future. For now, just leave the extra few lines of text at the top of the file alone.