Network Working Group K. Moore
Request for Comments: 2047 University of Tennessee
Obsoletes: 1521, 1522, 1590 November 1996
Category: Standards Track
MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) Part Three:
Message Header Extensions for Non-ASCII Text
Status of this Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
STD 11, RFC 822, defines a message representation protocol specifying
considerable detail about US-ASCII message headers, and leaves the
message content, or message body, as flat US-ASCII text. This set of
documents, collectively called the Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions, or MIME, redefines the format of messages to allow for
(1) textual message bodies in character sets other than US-ASCII,
(2) an extensible set of different formats for non-textual message
(3) multi-part message bodies, and
(4) textual header information in character sets other than US-ASCII.
These documents are based on earlier work documented in RFC 934, STD11, and RFC 1049, but extends and revises them. Because RFC 822 said
so little about message bodies, these documents are largely
orthogonal to (rather than a revision of) RFC 822.
This particular document is the third document in the series. It
describes extensions to RFC 822 to allow non-US-ASCII text data in
Internet mail header fields.
Other documents in this series include:
+ RFC 2045, which specifies the various headers used to describe
the structure of MIME messages.
+ RFC 2046, which defines the general structure of the MIME media
typing system and defines an initial set of media types,
+ RFC 2048, which specifies various IANA registration procedures
for MIME-related facilities, and
+ RFC 2049, which describes MIME conformance criteria and
provides some illustrative examples of MIME message formats,
acknowledgements, and the bibliography.
These documents are revisions of RFCs 1521, 1522, and 1590, which
themselves were revisions of RFCs 1341 and 1342. An appendix in RFC
2049 describes differences and changes from previous versions.
RFC 2045 describes a mechanism for denoting textual body parts which
are coded in various character sets, as well as methods for encoding
such body parts as sequences of printable US-ASCII characters. This
memo describes similar techniques to allow the encoding of non-ASCII
text in various portions of a RFC 822  message header, in a manner
which is unlikely to confuse existing message handling software.
Like the encoding techniques described in RFC 2045, the techniques
outlined here were designed to allow the use of non-ASCII characters
in message headers in a way which is unlikely to be disturbed by the
quirks of existing Internet mail handling programs. In particular,
some mail relaying programs are known to (a) delete some message
header fields while retaining others, (b) rearrange the order of
addresses in To or Cc fields, (c) rearrange the (vertical) order of
header fields, and/or (d) "wrap" message headers at different places
than those in the original message. In addition, some mail reading
programs are known to have difficulty correctly parsing message
headers which, while legal according to RFC 822, make use of
backslash-quoting to "hide" special characters such as "<", ",", or
":", or which exploit other infrequently-used features of that
While it is unfortunate that these programs do not correctly
interpret RFC 822 headers, to "break" these programs would cause
severe operational problems for the Internet mail system. The
extensions described in this memo therefore do not rely on little-
used features of RFC 822.
Instead, certain sequences of "ordinary" printable ASCII characters
(known as "encoded-words") are reserved for use as encoded data. The
syntax of encoded-words is such that they are unlikely to
"accidentally" appear as normal text in message headers.
Furthermore, the characters used in encoded-words are restricted to
those which do not have special meanings in the context in which the
Generally, an "encoded-word" is a sequence of printable ASCII
characters that begins with "=?", ends with "?=", and has two "?"s in
between. It specifies a character set and an encoding method, and
also includes the original text encoded as graphic ASCII characters,
according to the rules for that encoding method.
A mail composer that implements this specification will provide a
means of inputting non-ASCII text in header fields, but will
translate these fields (or appropriate portions of these fields) into
encoded-words before inserting them into the message header.
A mail reader that implements this specification will recognize
encoded-words when they appear in certain portions of the message
header. Instead of displaying the encoded-word "as is", it will
reverse the encoding and display the original text in the designated
This memo relies heavily on notation and terms defined RFC 822 and
RFC 2045. In particular, the syntax for the ABNF used in this memo
is defined in RFC 822, as well as many of the terminal or nonterminal
symbols from RFC 822 are used in the grammar for the header
extensions defined here. Among the symbols defined in RFC 822 and
referenced in this memo are: 'addr-spec', 'atom', 'CHAR', 'comment',
'CTLs', 'ctext', 'linear-white-space', 'phrase', 'quoted-pair'.
'quoted-string', 'SPACE', and 'word'. Successful implementation of
this protocol extension requires careful attention to the RFC 822
definitions of these terms.
When the term "ASCII" appears in this memo, it refers to the "7-Bit
American Standard Code for Information Interchange", ANSI X3.4-1986.
The MIME charset name for this character set is "US-ASCII". When not
specifically referring to the MIME charset name, this document uses
the term "ASCII", both for brevity and for consistency with RFC 822.
However, implementors are warned that the character set name must be
spelled "US-ASCII" in MIME message and body part headers.
This memo specifies a protocol for the representation of non-ASCII
text in message headers. It specifically DOES NOT define any
translation between "8-bit headers" and pure ASCII headers, nor is
any such translation assumed to be possible.
2. Syntax of encoded-words
An 'encoded-word' is defined by the following ABNF grammar. The
notation of RFC 822 is used, with the exception that white space
characters MUST NOT appear between components of an 'encoded-word'.
encoded-word = "=?" charset "?" encoding "?" encoded-text "?="
charset = token ; see section 3
encoding = token ; see section 4
token = 1*<Any CHAR except SPACE, CTLs, and especials>
especials = "(" / ")" / "<" / ">" / "@" / "," / ";" / ":" / "
<"> / "/" / "[" / "]" / "?" / "." / "="
encoded-text = 1*<Any printable ASCII character other than "?"
; (but see "Use of encoded-words in message
; headers", section 5)
Both 'encoding' and 'charset' names are case-independent. Thus the
charset name "ISO-8859-1" is equivalent to "iso-8859-1", and the
encoding named "Q" may be spelled either "Q" or "q".
An 'encoded-word' may not be more than 75 characters long, including
'charset', 'encoding', 'encoded-text', and delimiters. If it is
desirable to encode more text than will fit in an 'encoded-word' of
75 characters, multiple 'encoded-word's (separated by CRLF SPACE) may
While there is no limit to the length of a multiple-line header
field, each line of a header field that contains one or more
'encoded-word's is limited to 76 characters.
The length restrictions are included both to ease interoperability
through internetwork mail gateways, and to impose a limit on the
amount of lookahead a header parser must employ (while looking for a
final ?= delimiter) before it can decide whether a token is an
"encoded-word" or something else.
IMPORTANT: 'encoded-word's are designed to be recognized as 'atom's
by an RFC 822 parser. As a consequence, unencoded white space
characters (such as SPACE and HTAB) are FORBIDDEN within an
'encoded-word'. For example, the character sequence
=?iso-8859-1?q?this is some text?=
would be parsed as four 'atom's, rather than as a single 'atom' (by
an RFC 822 parser) or 'encoded-word' (by a parser which understands
'encoded-words'). The correct way to encode the string "this is some
text" is to encode the SPACE characters as well, e.g.
The characters which may appear in 'encoded-text' are further
restricted by the rules in section 5.
3. Character sets
The 'charset' portion of an 'encoded-word' specifies the character
set associated with the unencoded text. A 'charset' can be any of
the character set names allowed in an MIME "charset" parameter of a
"text/plain" body part, or any character set name registered with
IANA for use with the MIME text/plain content-type.
Some character sets use code-switching techniques to switch between
"ASCII mode" and other modes. If unencoded text in an 'encoded-word'
contains a sequence which causes the charset interpreter to switch
out of ASCII mode, it MUST contain additional control codes such that
ASCII mode is again selected at the end of the 'encoded-word'. (This
rule applies separately to each 'encoded-word', including adjacent
'encoded-word's within a single header field.)
When there is a possibility of using more than one character set to
represent the text in an 'encoded-word', and in the absence of
private agreements between sender and recipients of a message, it is
recommended that members of the ISO-8859-* series be used in
preference to other character sets.
Initially, the legal values for "encoding" are "Q" and "B". These
encodings are described below. The "Q" encoding is recommended for
use when most of the characters to be encoded are in the ASCII
character set; otherwise, the "B" encoding should be used.
Nevertheless, a mail reader which claims to recognize 'encoded-word's
MUST be able to accept either encoding for any character set which it
Only a subset of the printable ASCII characters may be used in
'encoded-text'. Space and tab characters are not allowed, so that
the beginning and end of an 'encoded-word' are obvious. The "?"
character is used within an 'encoded-word' to separate the various
portions of the 'encoded-word' from one another, and thus cannot
appear in the 'encoded-text' portion. Other characters are also
illegal in certain contexts. For example, an 'encoded-word' in a
'phrase' preceding an address in a From header field may not contain
any of the "specials" defined in RFC 822. Finally, certain other
characters are disallowed in some contexts, to ensure reliability for
messages that pass through internetwork mail gateways.
The "B" encoding automatically meets these requirements. The "Q"
encoding allows a wide range of printable characters to be used in
non-critical locations in the message header (e.g., Subject), with
fewer characters available for use in other locations.
4.1. The "B" encoding
The "B" encoding is identical to the "BASE64" encoding defined by RFC
4.2. The "Q" encoding
The "Q" encoding is similar to the "Quoted-Printable" content-
transfer-encoding defined in RFC 2045. It is designed to allow text
containing mostly ASCII characters to be decipherable on an ASCII
terminal without decoding.
(1) Any 8-bit value may be represented by a "=" followed by two
hexadecimal digits. For example, if the character set in use
were ISO-8859-1, the "=" character would thus be encoded as
"=3D", and a SPACE by "=20". (Upper case should be used for
hexadecimal digits "A" through "F".)
(2) The 8-bit hexadecimal value 20 (e.g., ISO-8859-1 SPACE) may be
represented as "_" (underscore, ASCII 95.). (This character may
not pass through some internetwork mail gateways, but its use
will greatly enhance readability of "Q" encoded data with mail
readers that do not support this encoding.) Note that the "_"
always represents hexadecimal 20, even if the SPACE character
occupies a different code position in the character set in use.
(3) 8-bit values which correspond to printable ASCII characters other
than "=", "?", and "_" (underscore), MAY be represented as those
characters. (But see section 5 for restrictions.) In
particular, SPACE and TAB MUST NOT be represented as themselves
within encoded words.
5. Use of encoded-words in message headers
An 'encoded-word' may appear in a message header or body part header
according to the following rules:
(1) An 'encoded-word' may replace a 'text' token (as defined by RFC 822)
in any Subject or Comments header field, any extension message
header field, or any MIME body part field for which the field body
is defined as '*text'. An 'encoded-word' may also appear in any
user-defined ("X-") message or body part header field.
Ordinary ASCII text and 'encoded-word's may appear together in the
same header field. However, an 'encoded-word' that appears in a
header field defined as '*text' MUST be separated from any adjacent
'encoded-word' or 'text' by 'linear-white-space'.
(2) An 'encoded-word' may appear within a 'comment' delimited by "(" and
")", i.e., wherever a 'ctext' is allowed. More precisely, the RFC
822 ABNF definition for 'comment' is amended as follows:
comment = "(" *(ctext / quoted-pair / comment / encoded-word) ")"
A "Q"-encoded 'encoded-word' which appears in a 'comment' MUST NOT
contain the characters "(", ")" or "
'encoded-word' that appears in a 'comment' MUST be separated from
any adjacent 'encoded-word' or 'ctext' by 'linear-white-space'.
It is important to note that 'comment's are only recognized inside
"structured" field bodies. In fields whose bodies are defined as
'*text', "(" and ")" are treated as ordinary characters rather than
comment delimiters, and rule (1) of this section applies. (See RFC
822, sections 3.1.2 and 3.1.3)
(3) As a replacement for a 'word' entity within a 'phrase', for example,
one that precedes an address in a From, To, or Cc header. The ABNF
definition for 'phrase' from RFC 822 thus becomes:
phrase = 1*( encoded-word / word )
In this case the set of characters that may be used in a "Q"-encoded
'encoded-word' is restricted to: <upper and lower case ASCII
letters, decimal digits, "!", "*", "+", "-", "/", "=", and "_"
(underscore, ASCII 95.)>. An 'encoded-word' that appears within a
'phrase' MUST be separated from any adjacent 'word', 'text' or
'special' by 'linear-white-space'.
These are the ONLY locations where an 'encoded-word' may appear. In
+ An 'encoded-word' MUST NOT appear in any portion of an 'addr-spec'.
+ An 'encoded-word' MUST NOT appear within a 'quoted-string'.
+ An 'encoded-word' MUST NOT be used in a Received header field.
+ An 'encoded-word' MUST NOT be used in parameter of a MIME
Content-Type or Content-Disposition field, or in any structured
field body except within a 'comment' or 'phrase'.
The 'encoded-text' in an 'encoded-word' must be self-contained;
'encoded-text' MUST NOT be continued from one 'encoded-word' to
another. This implies that the 'encoded-text' portion of a "B"
'encoded-word' will be a multiple of 4 characters long; for a "Q"
'encoded-word', any "=" character that appears in the 'encoded-text'
portion will be followed by two hexadecimal characters.
Each 'encoded-word' MUST encode an integral number of octets. The
'encoded-text' in each 'encoded-word' must be well-formed according
to the encoding specified; the 'encoded-text' may not be continued in
the next 'encoded-word'. (For example, "=?charset?Q?=?=
=?charset?Q?AB?=" would be illegal, because the two hex digits "AB"
must follow the "=" in the same 'encoded-word'.)
Each 'encoded-word' MUST represent an integral number of characters.
A multi-octet character may not be split across adjacent 'encoded-
Only printable and white space character data should be encoded using
this scheme. However, since these encoding schemes allow the
encoding of arbitrary octet values, mail readers that implement this
decoding should also ensure that display of the decoded data on the
recipient's terminal will not cause unwanted side-effects.
Use of these methods to encode non-textual data (e.g., pictures or
sounds) is not defined by this memo. Use of 'encoded-word's to
represent strings of purely ASCII characters is allowed, but
discouraged. In rare cases it may be necessary to encode ordinary
text that looks like an 'encoded-word'.
6. Support of 'encoded-word's by mail readers
6.1. Recognition of 'encoded-word's in message headers
A mail reader must parse the message and body part headers according
to the rules in RFC 822 to correctly recognize 'encoded-word's.
'encoded-word's are to be recognized as follows:
(1) Any message or body part header field defined as '*text', or any
user-defined header field, should be parsed as follows: Beginning
at the start of the field-body and immediately following each
occurrence of 'linear-white-space', each sequence of up to 75
printable characters (not containing any 'linear-white-space')
should be examined to see if it is an 'encoded-word' according to
the syntax rules in section 2. Any other sequence of printable
characters should be treated as ordinary ASCII text.
(2) Any header field not defined as '*text' should be parsed
according to the syntax rules for that header field. However,
any 'word' that appears within a 'phrase' should be treated as an
'encoded-word' if it meets the syntax rules in section 2.
Otherwise it should be treated as an ordinary 'word'.
(3) Within a 'comment', any sequence of up to 75 printable characters
(not containing 'linear-white-space'), that meets the syntax
rules in section 2, should be treated as an 'encoded-word'.
Otherwise it should be treated as normal comment text.
(4) A MIME-Version header field is NOT required to be present for
'encoded-word's to be interpreted according to this
specification. One reason for this is that the mail reader is
not expected to parse the entire message header before displaying
lines that may contain 'encoded-word's.
6.2. Display of 'encoded-word's
Any 'encoded-word's so recognized are decoded, and if possible, the
resulting unencoded text is displayed in the original character set.
NOTE: Decoding and display of encoded-words occurs *after* a
structured field body is parsed into tokens. It is therefore
possible to hide 'special' characters in encoded-words which, when
displayed, will be indistinguishable from 'special' characters in the
surrounding text. For this and other reasons, it is NOT generally
possible to translate a message header containing 'encoded-word's to
an unencoded form which can be parsed by an RFC 822 mail reader.
When displaying a particular header field that contains multiple
'encoded-word's, any 'linear-white-space' that separates a pair of
adjacent 'encoded-word's is ignored. (This is to allow the use of
multiple 'encoded-word's to represent long strings of unencoded text,
without having to separate 'encoded-word's where spaces occur in the
In the event other encodings are defined in the future, and the mail
reader does not support the encoding used, it may either (a) display
the 'encoded-word' as ordinary text, or (b) substitute an appropriate
message indicating that the text could not be decoded.
If the mail reader does not support the character set used, it may
(a) display the 'encoded-word' as ordinary text (i.e., as it appears
in the header), (b) make a "best effort" to display using such
characters as are available, or (c) substitute an appropriate message
indicating that the decoded text could not be displayed.
If the character set being used employs code-switching techniques,
display of the encoded text implicitly begins in "ASCII mode". In
addition, the mail reader must ensure that the output device is once
again in "ASCII mode" after the 'encoded-word' is displayed.
6.3. Mail reader handling of incorrectly formed 'encoded-word's
It is possible that an 'encoded-word' that is legal according to the
syntax defined in section 2, is incorrectly formed according to the
rules for the encoding being used. For example:
(1) An 'encoded-word' which contains characters which are not legal
for a particular encoding (for example, a "-" in the "B"
encoding, or a SPACE or HTAB in either the "B" or "Q" encoding),
is incorrectly formed.
(2) Any 'encoded-word' which encodes a non-integral number of
characters or octets is incorrectly formed.
A mail reader need not attempt to display the text associated with an
'encoded-word' that is incorrectly formed. However, a mail reader
MUST NOT prevent the display or handling of a message because an
'encoded-word' is incorrectly formed.
A mail composing program claiming compliance with this specification
MUST ensure that any string of non-white-space printable ASCII
characters within a '*text' or '*ctext' that begins with "=?" and
ends with "?=" be a valid 'encoded-word'. ("begins" means: at the
start of the field-body, immediately following 'linear-white-space',
or immediately following a "(" for an 'encoded-word' within '*ctext';
"ends" means: at the end of the field-body, immediately preceding
'linear-white-space', or immediately preceding a ")" for an
'encoded-word' within '*ctext'.) In addition, any 'word' within a
'phrase' that begins with "=?" and ends with "?=" must be a valid
A mail reading program claiming compliance with this specification
must be able to distinguish 'encoded-word's from 'text', 'ctext', or
'word's, according to the rules in section 6, anytime they appear in
appropriate places in message headers. It must support both the "B"
and "Q" encodings for any character set which it supports. The
program must be able to display the unencoded text if the character
set is "US-ASCII". For the ISO-8859-* character sets, the mail
reading program must at least be able to display the characters which
are also in the ASCII set.
The following are examples of message headers containing 'encoded-
From: =?US-ASCII?Q?Keith_Moore?= <email@example.com>
To: =?ISO-8859-1?Q?Keld_J=F8rn_Simonsen?= <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CC: =?ISO-8859-1?Q?Andr=E9?= Pirard <PIRARD@vm1.ulg.ac.be>
Note: In the first 'encoded-word' of the Subject field above, the
last "=" at the end of the 'encoded-text' is necessary because each
'encoded-word' must be self-contained (the "=" character completes a
group of 4 base64 characters representing 2 octets). An additional
octet could have been encoded in the first 'encoded-word' (so that
the encoded-word would contain an exact multiple of 3 encoded
octets), except that the second 'encoded-word' uses a different
'charset' than the first one.
From: =?ISO-8859-1?Q?Olle_J=E4rnefors?= <email@example.com>
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Subject: Time for ISO 10646?
To: Dave Crocker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
From: =?ISO-8859-1?Q?Patrik_F=E4ltstr=F6m?= <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: RFC-HDR care and feeding
From: Nathaniel Borenstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Greg Vaudreuil <gvaudre@NRI.Reston.VA.US>, Ned Freed
<email@example.com>, Keith Moore <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Test of new header generator
Content-type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
The following examples illustrate how text containing 'encoded-word's
which appear in a structured field body. The rules are slightly
different for fields defined as '*text' because "(" and ")" are not
recognized as 'comment' delimiters. [Section 5, paragraph (1)].
In each of the following examples, if the same sequence were to occur
in a '*text' field, the "displayed as" form would NOT be treated as
encoded words, but be identical to the "encoded form". This is
because each of the encoded-words in the following examples is
adjacent to a "(" or ")" character.
encoded form displayed as
(=?ISO-8859-1?Q?a?= b) (a b)
Within a 'comment', white space MUST appear between an
'encoded-word' and surrounding text. [Section 5,
paragraph (2)]. However, white space is not needed between
the initial "(" that begins the 'comment', and the
(=?ISO-8859-1?Q?a?= =?ISO-8859-1?Q?b?=) (ab)
White space between adjacent 'encoded-word's is not
(=?ISO-8859-1?Q?a?= =?ISO-8859-1?Q?b?=) (ab)
Even multiple SPACEs between 'encoded-word's are ignored
for the purpose of display.
Any amount of linear-space-white between 'encoded-word's,
even if it includes a CRLF followed by one or more SPACEs,
is ignored for the purposes of display.
(=?ISO-8859-1?Q?a_b?=) (a b)
In order to cause a SPACE to be displayed within a portion
of encoded text, the SPACE MUST be encoded as part of the
(=?ISO-8859-1?Q?a?= =?ISO-8859-2?Q?_b?=) (a b)
In order to cause a SPACE to be displayed between two strings
of encoded text, the SPACE MAY be encoded as part of one of
[RFC 822] Crocker, D., "Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet Text
Messages", STD 11, RFC 822, UDEL, August 1982.
[RFC 2049] Borenstein, N., and N. Freed, "Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions (MIME) Part Five: Conformance Criteria and Examples",
RFC 2049, November 1996.
[RFC 2045] Borenstein, N., and N. Freed, "Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions (MIME) Part One: Format of Internet Message Bodies",
RFC 2045, November 1996.
[RFC 2046] Borenstein N., and N. Freed, "Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions (MIME) Part Two: Media Types", RFC 2046,
[RFC 2048] Freed, N., Klensin, J., and J. Postel, "Multipurpose
Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) Part Four: Registration
Procedures", RFC 2048, November 1996.
10. Security Considerations
Security issues are not discussed in this memo.
The author wishes to thank Nathaniel Borenstein, Issac Chan, Lutz
Donnerhacke, Paul Eggert, Ned Freed, Andreas M. Kirchwitz, Olle
Jarnefors, Mike Rosin, Yutaka Sato, Bart Schaefer, and Kazuhiko
Yamamoto, for their helpful advice, insightful comments, and
illuminating questions in response to earlier versions of this
12. Author's Address
University of Tennessee
107 Ayres Hall
Knoxville TN 37996-1301
Appendix - changes since RFC 1522 (in no particular order)
+ explicitly state that the MIME-Version is not requried to use
+ add explicit note that SPACEs and TABs are not allowed within
'encoded-word's, explaining that an 'encoded-word' must look like an
'atom' to an RFC822 parser.values, to be precise).
+ add examples from Olle Jarnefors (thanks!) which illustrate how
encoded-words with adjacent linear-white-space are displayed.
+ explicitly list terms defined in RFC822 and referenced in this memo
+ fix transcription typos that caused one or two lines and a couple of
characters to disappear in the resulting text, due to nroff quirks.
+ clarify that encoded-words are allowed in '*text' fields in both
RFC822 headers and MIME body part headers, but NOT as parameter
+ clarify the requirement to switch back to ASCII within the encoded
portion of an 'encoded-word', for any charset that uses code switching
+ add a note about 'encoded-word's being delimited by "(" and ")"
within a comment, but not in a *text (how bizarre!).
+ fix the Andre Pirard example to get rid of the trailing "_" after
the =E9. (no longer needed post-1342).
+ clarification: an 'encoded-word' may appear immediately following
the initial "(" or immediately before the final ")" that delimits a
comment, not just adjacent to "(" and ")" *within* *ctext.
+ add a note to explain that a "B" 'encoded-word' will always have a
multiple of 4 characters in the 'encoded-text' portion.
+ add note about the "=" in the examples
+ note that processing of 'encoded-word's occurs *after* parsing, and
some of the implications thereof.
+ explicitly state that you can't expect to translate between
1522 and either vanilla 822 or so-called "8-bit headers".
+ explicitly state that 'encoded-word's are not valid within a