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RE: [techs] Acronyms and abbreviations

From: Michael Cooper <michaelc@watchfire.com>
Date: Fri, 14 May 2004 10:13:00 -0400
Message-ID: <D9ABD8212AFB094C855045AD80FB40DD033FB833@1wfmail.watchfire.com>
To: W3C WAI-GL <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

My personal opinion is that abbreviations and acroynms should be marked up
on every occurence, as Jens had in mind. There are several reasons for this:

* There is no guarantee that the first, marked up occurence will have been
encountered before encountering a later, unmarked occurence. Therefore the
usefulness of having provided the markup is voided.

* There is no guarantee that user agents will recognize, in unmarked up
text, a recurrence of an abbreviation or acronym that has been previously
identified through markup. Therefore the user agent will not know to do
anything special with it. I don't think we can say that if a user agent
encounters the acronym <acronym title="Americans with Disabilities
Act">ADA</acronym> and later encounters the text "ADA", it will know that is
a repetition of the same text. What if the article also happens to be
discussing the Ada programming language? Will the user agent reliably be
able to tell the acronym from the non-acronym version of the same letter
combination apart without markup?

* Even if user agents did recognize recurrences of a previously marked up
abbreviation or acronym, the absence of markup would mean they would not
know what special action to take (except for taking the same action that was
applied on the marked up instance, but someone on the list recently posted a
vision in which that would not be the case).

* Finally, a given letter combination can stand for more than one
abbreviation or acronym. My favourite example is an article on the
application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the American Dental
Association. That is to say, the ADA applied to the ADA, or the ADA's
adoption of the ADA. Confused yet? We need markup to disambiguate.

For all these reasons I believe abbreviation and acronym markup should be
used on all instances. If one is going to the trouble to mark up one
instance, I don't see that it is a lot more trouble to mark up all

But, having said all this, I believe the general feeling in the group is
against this, and does favour only requiring a single instance to be marked
up. I spelled out my thoughts more explictly to see if it stimulates further
discussion of that, but for now the 1-instance version is the one that
stands in the HTML techniques.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jens Meiert [mailto:jens.meiert@erde3.com]
> Sent: Friday, May 14, 2004 6:31 AM
> To: W3C WAI-GL
> Subject: [wcag2] Acronyms and abbreviations
> Please help -- I had in mind that explaining /every/ abbreviation and
> acronym on a page is considered necessary and useful, but the 
> guidelines
> state to 'use the abbr (and acronym) element to expand 
> abbreviations where
> they first occur' [1].
> What is really recommended, using them once or everywhere?
> All the best,
>  Jens.
> [1] http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-HTML-TECHS/#text-abbr
> -- 
> Jens Meiert
> Interface Architect (IxD)
> http://meiert.com/
Received on Friday, 14 May 2004 10:13:13 UTC

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