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Re: Specification "NOTE" paragraphs and normative language

2008-05-18 13:49:51

At 07:11 18-05-2008, Dave Crocker wrote:
Some normative statements are placed in a paragraph labeled "NOTE:" so as to emphasize the requirement of the text. It has been suggested that that label actually implies less importance, not more. (In regular prose, a footnote, for example, is indeed secondary to the main text.)

I think it is worth distinguishing text that is secondary from normative text that is being emphasized. So I'm inclined to agree that "NOTE:" should be used for non-normative stuff.

There's "Nota Bene" which in IETF parlance is "Note Well". It's the equivalent of "take notice".

In some RFCs, we have "Note that this .." which clarifies or enforces a point made in the preceding sentence or paragraph. There's also:

  "HISTORICAL NOTE:  Several of the mechanisms described in this set of
   documents may seem somewhat strange or even baroque at first reading."

  "FORMATTING NOTE:  Notes, such at this one, provide additional
   nonessential information which may be skipped by the reader without
   missing anything essential."

  "IMPORTANT NOTE:  These mechanisms end up being somewhat gibbous when
   they actually are used."

  "NOTE:  The previous four definitions are clearly circular."

Although the above examples do not contain normative text, there are cases where such notes do have them.

That leaves the question of what convention is appropriate for marking emphasized normative text.

We already have the requirement levels in RFC 2119.

ps. Or let NOTE be used for emphasizing normative text, and have some other convention for secondary. Whatever works and is appealing to the community.

A note sometimes provides the context or is a comment based on prior observations of implementation behavior. Basically, it tells us how that particular text should be read.