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In most cases, a doctype is not required, but it is highly recommended. If you want your pages to adhere to a particular standard, like XHTML 1.0, then it is required. Adding a doctype is helpful for browsers and robots to know what to expect.
There is a list of valid DocTypes, or DTDs, on the W3's website: [w3.org ] You can also find tools to validate your HTML on their website.
While most browsers try to render any HTML even without a doctype, the results are, ahem, somewhat unpredictable.
If you are using mainly 'standard' html, you may choose a HTML 4.01 doctype.
You may look into these links for further reading:
Recommended DTDs to use in your Web document
Choosing a DOCTYPE
Though to be honest Im not sure what form of HTML im using. Im using stlye sheets and have closed all tags.
Whilst you get your basic validation sorted out, try using this "half" doctype:
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
Once you're validated, then you can switch to a "full" doctype and sort out the display problems.