Next / Previous / Contents / Shipman's homepage

5.15. The narrative elements

In quite a number of different places, we want to be able to represent general narratives—descriptions of places, birds, weather, and such. In these narrative sections, we want to be able to use special inline tags to markup elements that need special typography. In particular, we want to present scientific names in italics.

Another important structural feature of narrative content is the ability to break it up into paragraphs. For example, in the route description, it is useful to be able to break up the major sections of the routes into separate paragraphs, rather than presenting it as all one huge glob.

We could use something like DocBook's para element to hold such narrative, and use a content model something like “para+” to allow one or more paragraphs.

However, most of the time, narrative content will be rather short, and it is somewhat burdensome to force the writer to wrap just a short note inside a para element.

The solution in these locations is to allow either a sequence of para elements, or just the content that goes inside a para. In the latter case, there is an implied para element wrapping up the content.

Here are the relevant parts of the schema for narrative content. First, we define the para element itself:

para = element para
{ para-content
para-content = mixed { para-markup* }
para-markup = (genus|cite)
genus = element genus { text }
cite = element cite { text }

This pattern describes what can go inside a paragraph. The Relax NG “mixed” construct means that the content may be any mixture of plain text, or occurrences of either genus or cite inline elements.


This pattern enumerates the elements that can occur inside an explicit or implied para paragraph.


An inline element containing a scientific name of genus rank or lower, to be rendered in italics.


An inline element containing a citation of a book, article, movie, or other reference whose name should be rendered in italics.

Finally, we define the narrative pattern: either a sequence of paragraphs, or mixed content that can occur inside a paragraph.

narrative = ( para+ | para-content )