Standard Generalized Markup Language

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What Does Standard Generalized Markup Language Mean?

Standard generalized markup language (SGML) is a text markup language that serves as a superset of widely used markup languages like HTML (hypertext markup language) and XML (extensible markup language).


SGML is used for marking up documents and has the advantage of not being dependent on a specific application. It is derived from GML (generalized markup language), which allowed users to work on standardized formatting styles for electronic documents.

Techopedia Explains Standard Generalized Markup Language

Standard generalized markup language features the following characteristics:

    • Descriptive Markup
    • Document Types

    Descriptive markup involves the use of markup code that identify how various portions of a document should be interpreted. For example, the code may identify one portion as a paragraph, another as a footnote and still another as a list or an item in a list.

    Any software capable of processing the marked-up document will then do so using its own kind of rendering. For example, one application might gather portions identified as footnotes and print them out at the end of each page. Another might print footnotes at the end of each chapter. Still another might not print out the footnotes at all.

    Another important characteristic of standard generalized markup language is its use of document types, and subsequently it use of document type definition (DTD). A particular document type is expected to have specific parts and a specific structure. For example, when there is a DTD for a report, the portions and structure of the document should follow what is defined in the DTD for it to be considered a report. One major benefit is that documents with the same type can be processed uniformly by all software capable of processing them.


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    Margaret Rouse
    Technology Expert
    Margaret Rouse
    Technology Expert

    Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.