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Re: proposed new definitions for abbreviation and acronym

From: <Becky_Gibson@notesdev.ibm.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Sep 2005 16:06:26 -0400
To: gez.lemon@gmail.com
Cc: WCAG <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org
Message-ID: <OFFF29733B.109CEEE2-ON8525707D.006D69E0-8525707D.006EBFFA@notesdev.ibm.com>

<gez wrote>
A word formed by the initial letters of a name that contains several
words is called an initialism. An acronym is an initialism that can be
pronounced. All initialisms, regardless of whether or not they're
acronyms, are a subset of abbreviation. In terms of HTML markup, the
abbr element catches all.

All English sources require that an acronym is pronounceable. As far
as I'm aware, the only official definition that is ambiguous is
Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, and even then it doesn't
explicitly state that all initialisms are acronyms; but it is
constantly put forward as an official definition by anyone wanting to
markup something for Internet Explorer as IE doesn't support the abbr

It's outside of WCAG's scope to redefine grammar, and I strongly
object to this proposal.

In my search I found several online references that did not require that 
acronyms be pronounceable (maybe all of them use Webster's as a source, I 
didn't dig that deep). I actually prefer the more restrictive definition 
but the rest of team B did not necessarily agree with me :).   And while I 
didn't want to explicitly call it out, IE support is an issue, by using 
the less restrictive definition of acronym authors can still mark acronyms 
up using IE until it gets fixed.  I did think about adding a definition 
for initialisms but that term is not used with WCAG so I didn't want to 
introduce it.   I agree that all acronyms are abbreviations and future 
proposals for GL 3.1 will suggest deprecating the HTML acronym technique 
in favor of just abbreviation (another proposal that I suspect will be 

Can you suggest an alternative definition?


Becky Gibson
Web Accessibility Architect
IBM Emerging Internet Technologies
5 Technology Park Drive
Westford, MA 01886
Voice: 978 399-6101; t/l 333-6101
Email: gibsonb@us.ibm.com
Received on Thursday, 15 September 2005 20:06:40 UTC

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