HTML and CSS Reference
In-Depth Information
The terms “parent” and “child” are specific applications of the terms ancestor and
descendant . There is a difference between them: in the tree view, if an element is exactly
one level above another, then they have a parent-child relationship. If the path from
one element to another is traced through two or more levels, the elements have an
ancestor-descendant relationship, but not a parent-child relationship. (Of course, a
child is also a descendant, and a parent is an ancestor.) In Figure 1-15 , the first ul
element is parent to two li elements, but the first ul is also the ancestor of every element
descended from its li element, all the way down to the most deeply nested li elements.
Also, in Figure 1-15 , there is an anchor that is a child of strong , but also a descendant
of paragraph , body , and html elements. The body element is an ancestor of everything
that the browser will display by default, and the html element is ancestor to the entire
document. For this reason, the html element is also called the root element .
Descendant Selectors
The first benefit of understanding this model is the ability to define descendant selec-
tors (also known as contextual selectors ). Defining descendant selectors is the act of
creating rules that operate in certain structural circumstances but not others. As an
example, let's say you want to style only those em elements that are descended from
h1 elements. You could put a class attribute on every em element found within an h1 ,
but that's almost as time-consuming as using the font tag. It's obviously far more effi-
cient to declare rules that match only em elements that are found inside h1 elements.
To do so, write the following:
h1 em {color: gray;}
This rule will make gray any text in an em element that is the descendant of an h1 element.
Other em text, such as that found in a paragraph or a block quote, will not be selected
by this rule. Figure 1-16 makes this clear.
Figure 1-16. Selecting an element based on its context
In a descendant selector, the selector side of a rule is composed of two or more space-
separated selectors. The space between the selectors is an example of a combinator .
Each space combinator can be translated as “found within,” “which is part of,” or “that
is a descendant of,” but only if you read the selector right to left. Thus, h1 em can be
translated as, “Any em element that is a descendant of an h1 element.” (To read the
selector left to right, you might phrase it something like, “Any h1 that contains an em
will have the following styles applied to the em .”)
You aren't limited to two selectors, of course. For example:
ul ol ul em {color: gray;}
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