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RE: ABBR and ACRONYM

From: Joe Roeder <Jroeder@nib.org>
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 1998 14:28:47 -0500
Message-ID: <C039498D996AD1118DAC0060083DB3540184891B@NIB-NT>
To: Matthew Lye <mlye@trentu.ca>
Cc: WC3-WAI-IG <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
I have been following this thread and would offer a comment.

On Friday, January 30, 1998, you wrote:

>My thinking is that a person familiar with the context in which 'RAM'
is 
>being used might find that really irritating.  But I gather that you
are 
>thinking of a mark-up to browser to screen reader chain, rather than 
>direct parsing of the mark-up by a text-to-speech browser.  In that
case 
>I almost agree with you, except that for people reading the acronym 
>visually, R space A space M would be less than optimal.  Thus, I would 
>suggest that the HTML 4.0 specification should instruct that browsers 
>support optional acronym spacing.

Most screen readers have tools for dealing with acronyms/abbreviations
by either spelling out them out or making a verbal substitution.  Even
without these automatic features, the user usually has a "spell word"
command to apply to the text which can accomplish the same objective.  

In my experience, there are no universal rules here.  Some
abbreviations/acronyms are more understandable when parsed (spelled out)
and others are not.  When people read text aloud, they will usually
choose one or the other according to which result is more
understandable.  For the most part they are following conventions rather
thatn firm rules.  For example, everyone will pronounce "ROM" as a word
but spell out "IBM".

Good screen readers have pronunciation exception dictionaries which are
fine for applications that have a limited number of
abbreviations/acronyms on the screen.  When dealing with documents or
web pages, however, where an abbreviation/acronym will be encountered
just once, or at most, only a few times, it is not practical to take the
time to add a new pronunciation exception to the dictionary.

Parsing or spelling out every abbreviation/acronym is not the solution
because this impedes the flow and rhythm of the spoken text and becomes
tedious.  Pronouncing every abbreviation/acronym as though it were an
authentic word is not the solution either, because some letter
combinations are too difficult to discern this way.

Your suggestion of having an optional parsing built into the browser
will probably be beneficial for those screen readers that don't already
have features for dealing with abbreviations/acronyms and unnecessary
for screan readers that do.  Most important is that this be an option or
it may short-circuit the screen readers functions that are already
designed to handle them.
Received on Friday, 30 January 1998 14:36:28 GMT

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