January 24, 2020

An Introduction To Document Markup


Early attempts at the transformation of paper documents to electronic documents were plagued by problems.

  • Employed procedural markup - Mark this text as 12 point Times New Roman, then mark this up as bold etc.
  • Focus was on presentation rather than document structure

Introduction of macros, to produce generic coding and speed up processing

  • A set of commands/keyboard strokes that can be represented by a single name or tag. (e.g. format a heading in some specific way)
  • Automated process enables swifter editing - a single change to the macro can update all related parts of a document structure (e.g. headings need to be reformatted)
  • Macros represent an authoring shorthand

However, formatting was proprietary (still is in many cases e.g. MS Word versus Adobe Acrobat) and this made the transfer of documents, even within the same company/organization, at best difficult and often impossible.

IBM's Goldfarb, Mosher and Lorie (GML), identified the need for:

  • A common document format
  • The requirement that any format must be specific to a domain (in GML's case, legal documents were their concern)
  • Reliability; to achieve this formatting of documents must adhere to a set of rules

GML invented Generalized Markup Language (coincidence?).

  • Based on the then current form of document markup (tags consisting of names and symbols). The semantics (meaning) of the tags in any GML compliant document would be universally understood.
  • It would provide a language specific to the users' needs. For example, legal documents have a language of their own. Context is important and this is sometimes referred to as the "Domain of Discourse". This, together with a specified language, provides the means for successful exchange of information between any interested party. The "Domain of Discourse" should remove any potential for ambiguity.
  • For successful computer processing, there is a need for markup to be verified according to a pre-determined set of rules, or constraints.


Next page » Example of a structured document

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