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Re: <abbr>, <acronym> and initialisms

From: Doug Jones <doug_b_jones@mac.com>
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 07:57:27 -0400
Message-Id: <468B55B9-974E-47E4-B401-A8D813E502AF@mac.com>
To: Matthew Raymond <mattraymond@earthlink.net>, HTML WG Public List <public-html@w3.org>


On 2007 Mar 28, at 21:56, Matthew Raymond wrote:

>
>    First of all, I've heard a lot of talk about Initialisms, and I've
> also done a small amount of web research as well, and here's my
> observations:
>
> 1) "Acronym" and "Initialism" are often treated as synonyms.

Yes. Definition is from the New Oxford American Dictionary.
initialism: an abbreviation consisting of initial letters pronounced  
separately (e.g., CPU).
 an acronym.

>
> 2) "Acronym" is the most commonly used of the two terms and is often
> applied to both acronyms AND initialisms.
>
> 3) The difference between an acronym and an initialism appears to be
> entirely based on aural presentation.
>
> 4) Many terms are acronyms for some and initialisms for others. In  
> fact,
> some terms, like "SQL", may be one or the other based on context
> ("mySQL" versus "SQL Server").
>
> 5) There are even hybrids between the two, such as JPEG and MS-DOS.
>
> 6) Both <abbr> and <acronym> are use so infrequently that they don't
> crack the top ten elements list. (http://code.google.com/webstats/)
>
> 7) Acronyms are, in fact, abbreviations.

No.  Examples are mine.

abbreviation: a shortened form of a word or phrase.

Examples include Dr. (doctor), abbr. (abbreviation), WWW (World Wide  
Web) and UK (United Kingdom).

acronym: a word formed from the initial letters of other words.

Examples include radar (radio detection and ranging) and laser (light  
amplification by stimulated emission of radiation).

>
> 8) The difference between <acronym> and <abbr> in HTML 4.01 is poorly
> defined.

Well, its technically correct but, like other things in the Spec,  
needs to be expanded to clarify actual intent.
>
> 9) Some of the confusion regarding <acronym> and <abbr> arises from  
> the
> historical inability to use both element in the same browser at the  
> same
> time.
>
>    From the above observations, I draw the following conclusions:
>
> 1) Acronyms and Initialisms don't have sufficiently different  
> semantics
> to make marking them up separately practical. To try to have a new
> element (<initialism>) or to use attribute values ("normal", "acronym"
> or "initialism") would cause an order of magnitude more confusion than
> <abbr> and <acronym> are causing already.
>
> 2) Because of the above conclusion, it logically follows that it makes
> more sense to have <abbr> and <acronym> than to have <abbr
> type="normal"> and <abbr type="acronym">.
>
> 3) While <acronym> is redundant to <abbr> as defined, we may be better
> served with a refinement of their definitions than the removal of
> <acronym>, especially since <acronym> will still need to be supported
> for backwards compatibility purposes.

I agree, with 3), although not that the two are redundant.
>
Received on Thursday, 29 March 2007 11:58:10 GMT

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