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Re: Question on abbreviations

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000 12:47:36 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: Bill Kules <wmk@takoma-software.com>
Cc: WAI Mailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 12:54 PM 12/20/2000 , Bill Kules wrote:
>Re: checkpoint 4.2, "Specify the expansion of each
>abbreviation or acronym in a document where it first
>Since many HTML documents are not designed to be
>read linearly, what is the definition of the first
>occurence in that case?  Is there consensus on
>this?  (Based on postings I've seen, it seems unlikely.)

Bill, to the best of my knowledge there is no good solution
to this.  One possible solution would be for the user agent to
assume that later versions of an identified abbreviation is
the same as the first, and then provide the expansion 

For example, consider the following HTML:

      <h1>Top of page</h1>
        This is a page about the
        <abbr title="HTML Writers Guild">HWG</abbr>, a group
        of web designers.
      <h2 id="history">History of the HWG</h2>
        The HWG was founded in 1994 by web designers who wanted
        to share their knowledge about 
        <abbr title="Hypertext Markup Language">HTML</abbr>.
      <h2 id="classes">Online Classes</h2>
        The HWG teaches courses in HTML,
        <abbr title="Cascading Style Sheets">CSS</abbr>, and

Okay, so if you started reading at #history, then obviously you
would reach HWG but it wouldn't be expanded for you.  But if the
browser made a hash table of abbreviation as it went along parsing
the page, it could assume that all mentions of "HWG" can be
expanded to "HTML Writers Guild."  It would then do the expansion
on the first time, for this particular viewing, that you encounter
that abbreviation.

Likewise, if you started viewing at #classes, it would expand
both HWG and HTML based on previous expansions defined in markup
which has been read, but not displayed.

The main problem with this approach is in assuming that all
abbreviations will have unique expansions within a document.  It
is entirely possible to have more than one expansion applicable
within the scope of one document.

Another problem, of course, is implementation -- I am not sure
if there -are- any browsers which work this way.

As an alternative, the guidelines could be ignored and an <abbr>
tag given to expand -all- occurrences of the abbreviated form,
not just the first appearance.  That would solve the problem,
but may prove unwieldy both from the standpoint of creating the
markup and in terms of file size.


Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                    http://kynn.com/
Director of Accessibility, Edapta               http://www.edapta.com/
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet   http://www.idyllmtn.com/
AWARE Center Director                      http://www.awarecenter.org/
What's on my bookshelf?                         http://kynn.com/books/
Received on Wednesday, 20 December 2000 16:15:31 UTC

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