What is a Markup Language?


Updated: 06/30/2019 by Computer Hope

A computer language that consists of easily understood keywords, names, or tags that help format the overall view of a page and the data it contains. Some examples of a markup language are BBC, HTML, SGML, and XML.

Markup language example

Below is an example segment of HTML code that creates bold text on a web page.

Example of <b>bold</b> in HTML.

As can be seen in the example above, the <b> tag is one of many HTML tags that can be used in HTML to change the look of the page. Below is an example of the output.

Example of bold in HTML.

Markup language vs. programming language

A markup language is not a programming language. It’s a series of special markings, interspersed with plain text, which if removed or ignored, leave the plain text as a complete whole. Or, those markings can be interpreted in a predefined manner (make this text bold, make this text an ordered list) that enhances its presentation to the reader. In contrast, plain text may be (and often is) part of a computer program; however, its representation will vary according to the programming language, and the programmer’s style of writing. Importantly, if all non-plain-text components of a computer program are removed, the remaining plain text is not guaranteed to be complete, or correctly ordered.

For example, the HTML that makes up this web page is a good example of markup. The HTML tags indicate how the textual components of the content are displayed in your web browser. But, if the HTML (and CSS and JavaScript) were removed, the majority of the text would remain, and be legible by a human.

However, like all markup languages, HTML is limited in creating interactive, dynamic, or computational behaviors. To create a web page that can perform more sophisticated functions, (e.g., search), a programming language (such as JavaScript, Perl, or PHP) is necessary.

BBC, HTML, Markdown, Markup, Programming terms, SGML, SMIL, Web design terms

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