W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > January to March 2000

RE: About ABBR

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 19:59:58 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: "Gregory J. Rosmaita" <unagi69@concentric.net>
Cc: "Wayne Crotts" <wcrotts@ARCHES.UGA.EDU>, WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 07:48 PM 2/19/2000 , Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:
>in any other medium, it would be considered a sign not of sloppiness, but rank incompetence and indifference, for an author NOT to expand an acronym the first time it is introduced to the reader...  why then, should the web be exempt from this rule of thumb, simply because it takes a few calories on the part of the author to (1) think of the correct expansion and (2) a few keystrokes to enclose the term in an ACRONYM?

Gregory, since web documents can be rendered in a number of media
in which acronym expansion is not available -- such as a printed 
copy of a web page -- do you think it would be advisable to follow
the rule of any other medium, and "manually" expand acronyms and
abbreviations when writing them?

In other words, when I'm writing email (such as a HWG newsletter),
I'll say something like World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on first
reference, and then W3C afterwards.  Wouldn't it be better to teach
those writing for the web to follow that existing, pre-web convention,
rather than encouraging them to use ABBR/ACRONYM which is not well

I'm playing devil's advocate here, but with a purpose.  Sometimes 
it is important for us to not forget the techniques we've learned
offline when moving online.  As far as I know, several major
browsers do not support ABBR/ACRONYM elements in HTML, but everything
can support inline parenthetical acronym definitions.

My version of Lynx won't do anything with ACRONYM tags, but I can
say (W3C) after World Wide Web Consortium, and -everyone- will
understand it.  Wouldn't that imply, then, that "manual" acronym
identification is superior, from an accessibility standpoint, to
markup ACRONYM identification?

Do you see my point here?  By relying on a poorly supported set of
tags such as ABBR and ACRONYM, we may be actually -decreasing- the
accessibility of our page.

It could be argued that both should be used -- but do you really think
the following is necessary?


      The Web Accessibility Initiative
      (<ACRONYM TITLE="Web Accessibility Initiative">WAI</ACRONYM>)
      is part of the World Wide Web Consortium
      (<ABBR TITLE="World Wide Web Consortium">W3C</ABBR>).

Can you really honestly and truly say that is more accessible than:


      The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is part of the World
      Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

If you think the first example is more accessible -- why, how, and
to whom?  If you think they're equally accessible, doesn't that
mean that the markup is a waste of time, energy, space, and bandwidth?

Finally, consider the following:


      <ACRONYM TITLE="Web Accessibility Initiative">WAI</ACRONYM>
      is part of the
      <ABBR TITLE="World Wide Web Consortium">W3C</ABBR>.

I maintain that this is the -least- accessible of the three exhibits --
and yet it's followed the "correct" markup as suggested by the WCAG!
If you print this out or view it in Lynx, you will -not- know what
the abbreviated forms mean -- but you will in either of the previous

Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/
Received on Saturday, 19 February 2000 23:06:10 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 13 October 2015 16:21:07 UTC