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Re: abbr/acronym - repetitive use

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 09:03:09 -0800
Message-Id: <a05100304b8218cec574b@[]>
To: iristopa@excite.com, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 8:45 AM -0800 11/21/01, iris wrote:
>request for advice/opinion:
>would it be enough to enclose the first occurrence of an acronym in the
>appropriate tag, e.g. <acronym title="Manchester Metropolitan
>University">MMU</acronym> and leave the other occurrences of MMU on the same
>page without the mark-up, or is it best to do this for every time the
>acronym occurs.

The way you asked your question is misleading, as the answer may very
well be "both."

It's definitely true that it's "best" to do it on every appearance, but
it's also somewhat unreasonable to do so.  Why is it "best"?  Remember
that not all web content is going to be read in the intended order,
especially when users with disabilities may need to take specific
shortcuts to access content.  (Such as:  Using the structure of a
document, via h1..h6 tags, to jump directly to the section they want
to read.)

On the other hand, is it reasonable?  Usually not in most web publishing
environments.  In most cases it's probably sufficient to simply use
the <abbr> or <acronym> on first appearance; sufficiency is a hard
thing to define, though.  It can't be judged in a vacuum and has
to be weighed against the need and the benefit.

>additional question:
>and while we're on the subject, there seems to be confusion over which is
>which.  my understanding is that an acronym is something like WWW, where the
>first letter of each word is used, while a shortening of a word (e.g. etc.
>from etcetera) is an abbreviation.  but even the wai guidelines have WWW
>listed as an abbreviation. ???

The distinction doesn't matter and the specs are inconsistent.  Just
use <abbr> regularly instead of <acronym>; they are essentially equal
but <abbr> has minor advantages in implementation support as well as
file size.

If this advice seems troubling, then just remember that abbr is for
"abbreviated forms" and certainly an acronym is an "abbreviated form"
of a set of words -- stated differently, the set of abbrs is a superset
of the set of acronyms.

Also:  Remember that there's nothing in the spec which ties the <abbr>
or <acronym> tag to any specific aural rendering.  A common mistake is
to assume that <acronym> elements MUST or even SHOULD be read out as
single letters -- not true at all, nor is it even desirable that this
be done.

Check the WAI-IG archives for more on <abbr> and <acronym>.


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Received on Wednesday, 21 November 2001 12:03:44 UTC

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