Getting started with symbolic endophrasing


In this short introductory note, you will learn how to author documents, with many of the commonly used typographic techniques found in word processors, by using BLUEPHRASE symbolic endophrasing. There are only a few basic rules to learn.

What is symbolic endophrasing?

Word processors have features for enhancing the visual aspects of your composition. These features are enabled by enclosing your words in a wrapper containing special instructions that only word processing software understands. When you open your document file using a plain-text editor, you'll see these instructions as large chunks of unintelligible codes; your words will be barely readable, and any changes you make will risk damaging the file. Word processing document files are not suitable for editing with a plain-text editor.

Symbolic endophrasing enables the same word processing features by embedding marks into your composition, reversing the order of importance. Your words become primary, and the processor's marks become secondary. When you open a BLUEPHRASE document file using a plain-text editor, you'll see instruction marks sprinkled throughout your composition, but your words will be readable and editable without any special software.

File format

Instead of saving your composition to a .doc, .docx, .odt, .rtf, .gdoc, or .md file format, with Read Write Tools you save it to a .blue file format.

Files saved with a .blue file extension are automatically converted into HTML — the format universally understood by Web browsers — with the BLUEPROCESSOR that is integrated into each tool. The visual aspects of your composition are rendered when a Web browser reads that HTML file.

Subject matter without typography

Each software application from Read Write Tools has two views of your composition: a BLUEPHRASE View, which is used to type your words; and a browser previewer, which is used to render the HTML created from your words.

Under typical usage, you will spend most of your time in the BLUEPHRASE View writing, rewriting, arranging, and organizing your thoughts into a comprehensible form.

During this authoring process, you may decide that a paragraph is not the best form for a passage. Perhaps you are writing a business document and you want to create a short list of important points. To do this, you'll remain in the BLUEPHRASE View, and type a couple of characters of BLUEPHRASE semantax directly into your composition, as an instruction to the browser previewer to render the next few phrases as a bulleted list.

The important points to consider regarding the BLUEPHRASE View are:

  • All of the writing and instructing is done with the keyboard, rather than the mouse.
  • All of the BLUEPHRASE semantax remain visible in the editor, just as you typed them.
  • And all of your composition remains in a single plain typewriter font.

At some point, after you've made substantial progress on the first draft of your composition, you may want to pause to reread your words in their typographical form. To do that, you'll switch to the browser previewer, which is the WYSIWYG form (what you see is what you get) of your work. Then, when you're ready to continue writing, you'll switch back to the plain typewriter-style BLUEPHRASE View.

Eventually, when you're ready to finalize your work, you'll save both your BLUEPHRASE document, and the automatically created .html document. The HTML file is what you will use to print, or post to the Web, or publish as an ebook. The .blue file is what you'll use to make revisions to your work.

Three basic phrase types

BLUEPHRASE instructions may be applied to words, paragraphs, or sections of your composition. For convenience sake, the term phrase is used to identify all of these.

A paragraph is called a standard phrase. A paragraph begins at the left margin of a document and ends when you press the <Enter> key.

A word may be italicized or underlined or made bold by enclosing it in chevrons, marking it as a subordinate phrase. Chevrons are typed around the word using two less-than and two greater-than characters.

A section of your composition, such as a bulleted list of important points, is surrounded by curly braces, marking it as a grouped phrase.

There are other types of phrases in BLUEPHRASE, but these three are the most essential, and they allow you to instruct the BLUEPROCESSOR to do many very powerful things.

What is semantax?

At the beginning of each phrase, you have the option to type a few mnemonic characters to define the semantic meaning of the phrase. These mnemonics are termed semantax.

For the most part, semantax use the same mnemonics that are used by HTML, so if you know the basics of HTML, you'll have no trouble getting started with BLUEPHRASE.

If you're not familiar with HTML, some of the more widely used semantax for subordinate phrases are: |i| for italics, |b| for bold, |u| for underline, |a| for hyperlinks, and |img| for images. (The vertical bars surrounding the mnemonics are not part of the semantax itself, they are here only for readability sake.)

The most widely used semantax for standard phrases are: |p| for paragraphs; |li| for list items; |td| for table data; and |h1|, |h2|, |h3| for section headings.

Grouped phrases use many specialized types of semantax, each one controlling the rendering layout in predefined ways. For example, |ol| and |ul| create ordered and unordered lists; |table| creates a grid of rows, columns, and data; |section| groups a set of related paragraphs together; and |aside| separates a group of paragraphs from nearby paragraphs.

These are the basic semantax that most writers need, but specialized semantax exist for almost every authoring need.

Semantax for standard phrases are optional, and if omitted, the phrase will automatically be supplied with an implied semantax, based on the where it occurs. Usually the implied semantax will be a |p|, resulting in a paragraph, but there are several commonly used grouped phrases that have a different implied semantax. For example:

  • When a standard phrase is situated between the curly braces of an |ol| ordered list or |ul| unordered list, the implied semantax will be a |li| list item.
  • When a |table| is specified, the phrases between the curly braces have an implied semantax of |tr|, creating a table row, and in turn, the phrases subordinate to each table row are implied to be |td|, creating table data cells.

The other common implied semantax is |span|, which is the HTML mnemonic used for generic spans of text that are to be targeted for styling. Subordinate phrases are always implied to be spans when you do not explicitly provide a semantax.


  • Symbolic endophrasing is a way for authors to provide formatting instructions that are readable and editable without any special software.
  • Your composition is saved in plain-text files with a .blue filename extension, and its Web browser complement is saved with an .html filename extension.
  • The three basic phrase types are: standard, subordinate, and grouped.
  • Semantax is a mnemonic typed at the beginning of a phrase to define its semantic meaning.


Getting started with symbolic endophrasing