Use the span element to surround a run of text without using any of the semantic inline elements. This is frequently necessary for extensions using attributes from external namespaces.


  • The span element can contain a mixture of text and any general inline elements.

  • The span element can occur in any general inline context, including inside most inline elements, some basic block elements, and certain informational elements.

  • The span element can link to other pages or documents. See Ubiquitous Linking for more information.

  • The style attribute takes a space-separated list of style hints. Processing tools should adjust their behavior according to those style hints they understand.

  • The span element can have attributes from external namespaces. See External Namespaces for more information on external-namespace attributes.


Use span with an external-namespace attribute to mark a word as untranslatable using the Internationalization Tag Set:

This <span its:translate="no">word</span> should not be translated.

This word should not be translated.

Processing Expectations

No particular special rendering is required for span elements. Processing tools may have special processing rules for certain style hints or external-namespace attributes.

Comparison to Other Formats

The span element is similar to the phrase element in DocBook.

The span element is similar to the ph element in DITA.


The formal definition of the Mallard language is maintained in RELAX NG Compact Syntax in code blocks within this specification. This is the formal definition for the span element. The namespace declarations for this definition are on the page Pages.

mal_inline_span = element span {
mal_inline_span_attr = (
  mal_attr_link *,
  attribute style { xsd:NMTOKENS } ?,
  mal_attr_external *
mal_inline_span_inline = mal_inline
© 2007-2011 Shaun McCance
cc-by-sa 3.0 (us)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

As a special exception, the copyright holders give you permission to copy, modify, and distribute the example code contained in this document under the terms of your choosing, without restriction.

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