Which html element should be used when writing out the author of an html document, with regards to semantics, SEO and so forth?
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You can use the meta tag like Tom Gullen suggested, but then the only way to find out the author is to check the source of the page, since browsers don't tell you. Most people do not know how to do that.
If you want to make it clear to all visitors who wrote the page's content, put the author's name direct on the page. There is no special element for that so just use
div, whichever is appriprite.
Finally just to point out - the author is irrelevant for SEO.