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From: Liam Quinn <liam@htmlhelp.com>
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 1998 08:53:29 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

At 07:56 AM 30/01/98 -0000, Pawson, David wrote:
>> > Sorry is this is a dumb question but what exactly is the
>> > difference between ABBR and ACRONYM? And as ACRONYM seems to
>> > be in the latest HTML4 spec and ABBR is not is it more
>> > sensible to use ACRONYM?
>	One difference we (RNIB) need to recognise,
>	for an acronym, presented to a low end synth speech
>	system 'reading' a page, the acronym needs to be 
>	'spaced out', such that RNIB becomes R N I B,
>	whereas this is not necessary with an 'abbrev' which can
>	(often) be 'read out' without being 'spelled out' - if you 
>	catch my drift. 

There is a major problem in that no one (myself included) actually knows 
what constitutes an acronym and what constitutes an abbreviation.  The 
HTML 4.0 Recommendation does not adequately explain the intended 
difference.  My dictionary (Webster's) gives example abbreviations that 
include "N.Y." (New York), "Mr." (Mister), and "lb." (pound).  It defines 
acronym as "a word formed from the first (or first few) letters of a 
series of words, as _radar_, from _radio detecting and ranging_".

This implies to me that RNIB is not an acronym, since I would not consider 
it a word.  For something to be a word, I think it needs to be 
pronouncable, so I would consider NATO and WAI to be acronyms.  Since RNIB 
is not an acronym, I would mark it up with ABBR along the lines of 
Webster's "N.Y." example.

There are also some initialisms like SQL and URL that are pronounced as 
words by some and spelled out letter by letter by others.  In this case, I 
recommend using ABBR, possibly in combination with a style sheet rule 
specifying how the initialism should be pronounced.  For example:

<ABBR TITLE="Uniform Resource Locator">URL</ABBR>

with the following CSS2 style sheet:

abbr[title="Uniform Resource Locator"] { speak: spell-out }

Using ABBR for these ambiguous cases ensures that ACRONYMs are always 
pronouncable words.

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Liam Quinn
Web Design Group            Enhanced Designs, Web Site Development
http://www.htmlhelp.com/    http://enhanced-designs.com/
Received on Friday, 30 January 1998 08:52:16 UTC

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