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RE: abbr/acronym - repetitive use

From: Jon Hanna <jon@spinsol.com>
Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001 17:22:09 -0000
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Hash: SHA1

I think an assumption is being made here based on a common practice
in writing, that doesn't directly correspond to mark-up. It has been
suggested that use of <abbr> or <acronym> is only necessary the first
time. This follows the practice of writing the likes of: "In a
statement by RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of
Afghanistan)..." or else the opposite where you give the expanded
text with the abbreviated form following.

In such a case the user is then familiar with the abbreviation and
can be expected to understand it afterwards.

However <abbr> and <acronym> do not serve this purpose. They are
elements in a mark-up language and are marking a piece of text as an
abbreviation. As such they do not equate to the above. Rather they
reflect the situation of an abbreviation being used in text, in which
case one of the valid ways to render it would be to give the expanded
form in brackets following it, just as a valid way to render a
heading is in larger text than body text.

A browser could decide to only render the expanded text of
abbreviations like this the first time it comes across it in a page,
or on a site (and would not be restricted by order-of-browsing in
doing so). It could decide to expand them all the time, or none of
the time. It could use other mechanisms like the toolTip commonly
used, statusbar text, it could decide that abbreviations will be
italicised, and so on.

The job of the person marking up the text is not to decide on any of
this (although stylesheets should offer means to persuade the browser
to render a particular way, but with the possibility of being
over-ridden). It is this person's job to mark-up the text in the way
that is appropriate. If a piece of text is an abbreviation then it is
an abbreviation no matter how often it has appeared in the text
before, and should be marked up as such.

Ergo, use <abbr> and <acronym> all the time, not just on the first

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Received on Thursday, 22 November 2001 12:15:41 UTC

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