Re: [rtcweb] Uppercase question for RFC2119 words

Barry Leiba <> Wed, 30 March 2016 17:59 UTC

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Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2016 13:59:29 -0400
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Subject: Re: [rtcweb] Uppercase question for RFC2119 words
From: Barry Leiba <>
To: Dave Cridland <>
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Cc: IETF discussion list <>, "Heather Flanagan (RFC Series Editor)" <>, "" <>, IESG <>, Dave Crocker <>
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>> That such a rule differs from natural English -- which does not typically
>> alter semantics based on case -- and that most readers of RFCs will not have
>> such detailed knowledge of RFC2119 nor read RFCs with the care such a rule
>> demands, my question BARRY and adam and EveryOne Else, is what makes anyone
>> think that such a rule must (MUST?) ensure proper reading of RFCs so as to
>> distinguish between normative portions and advisory portions?
> Sorry, I think that's nonsense. RFC 2119 and its capitalized keywords are
> well known to anyone reading any specifications, these days. I think we can
> actually assume a priori knowledge of RFC 2119, for the most part. What I
> think would be far more surprising is this notion that the keywords, noted
> and referenced in capitals, also have the same precise meaning and force
> when written normally.

I agree with the first and third sentences of what Dave Cridland said,
but I think we have to be a little careful about the second.  What I
think we can assume is an a priori knowledge of some of what 2119
says: that there are these capitalized key words that have special
meanings.  But it's quite clear from reviewing a lot of documents (one
of the fun things one gets to do as AD) that many writers do not know
how 2119 actually defines those.  I see significant misunderstandings
about "SHOULD" and "MAY" all the time, examples of which I can give
you if you like.  And one of my favourites is when someone used
"RECOMMENDED", I questioned it in a comment, and the response was,
"Yes, maybe we should switch that to 'SHOULD'."

As a complete side thing, I wonder how this all seems to
German-speakers, as German uses initial caps for all nouns.  I wonder
if anyone even notices if someone fails to do that.  I wonder if it
becomes puzzling, perhaps in some instances.