Skipping A Number In An HTML Ordered List

Published: December 21, 2016

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When writing an ordered list, numbers usually go sequentially up from 1, to 2, to 3 and so on. Anyone with the most basic knowledge of HTML knows that these lists should be represented with the <ol> element.

Markup

<ol>
  <li>HTML</li>
  <li>CSS</li>
  <li>JavaScript</li>
</ol>

Result

  1. HTML
  2. CSS
  3. JavaScript

However, what happens when you want to skip a number?

In this post I’ll outline why one might want to do this and provide the solution for achieving the desired result.

Why Would Someone Want To Skip A Number?

Good question. I’ll give you an example.

Let’s say you’re writing a top 5 list. For example, you’re writing a list of the top 5 NBA regular season records of all time. On this list, it turns out that there is a tie for the third place spot (there really is at the time of writing this post). In that case, you would want to skip position four and go straight five…

  1. Golden State Warriors, 2015-16 | 73-9
  2. Chicago Bulls 1995-96 | 72-10
  3. Los Angeles Lakes, 1971-72 / Chicago Bulls, 1996-97 | 69-13 (TIE)
  4. Philadelphia 76ers, 1966-67 | 68-13

We know that <ol>s have <li> children that just automatically go up. So how do we skip number 4?

Introducing the value attribute

It turns out, this scenario is accounted for in the HTML spec via the value attribute. Simply tell the browser which number a particular item on the list should be, and it will accommodate.

Markup

<ol>
    <li>Golden State Warriors, 2015-16 | 73-9</li>
    <li>Chicago Bulls 1995-96 | 72-10</li>
    <li>Los Angeles Lakes, 1971-72 / Chicago Bulls, 1996-97 | 69-13 (TIE)</li>
    <li value="5">Philadelphia 76ers, 1966-67 | 68-13</li>
</ol>

Result

  1. Golden State Warriors, 2015-16 | 73-9
  2. Chicago Bulls 1995-96 | 72-10
  3. Los Angeles Lakes, 1971-72 / Chicago Bulls, 1996-97 | 69-13 (TIE)
  4. Philadelphia 76ers, 1966-67 | 68-13

Per the HTML spec, if you continue adding list items after providing a value it will continue where you left off.

Markup

<ol>
  <li>One</li>
  <li>Two</li>
  <li value="4">Four</li>
  <li>Five</li>
</ol>

Result

  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Four
  4. Five

A Note On Markdown

I have yet to find a Markdown parser that offers support for supplying a value to a child <li> of an <ol>. In fact, the Markdown spec contains some language implying that being able to do so would not be desired. Unfortunately, if you want to skip a number in an ordered list in a Markdown document, you’ll need to write raw HTML :disappointed:

Conclusion

I hope some of you found this article interesting and useful. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop a note below, or, as always, you can reach me on Twitter as well.

Hi, I'm Max!

I'm a software developer who mainly works in PHP, but also dabbles in Ruby and Go. Technical topics that interest me are monitoring, security and performance.

During the day I solve challenging technical problems at Something Digital where I mainly work with the Magento platform. I also blog about tech, work on open source and hunt for bugs.

If you'd like to get in touch with me the best way is on Twitter.