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RE: abbr, acronym and working examples

From: John Foliot - bytown internet <foliot@bytowninternet.com>
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2002 07:48:37 -0500
To: "Jukka Korpela" <jukka.korpela@tieke.fi>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <GKEFJJEKDDIMBHJOGLENIELLCNAA.foliot@bytowninternet.com>

> We can use <acronym title="...">...</acronym> to get a "tooltip"
> effect. But
> we can also use <span title="...">...</span>. It's shorter :-) and it does
> not give false information. (I'm presuming that you would use
> <acronym> for
> something that is an abbreviation, not a word.) Similarly, you
> can use style
> sheet rules for <span> just as for <acronym>.

Granted, however, <acronym> is closer to <abbr> than <span> is.  While
semanticly different, I venture to guess most people have a hard time
explaining the difference.

> What practical functionality? The "tooltip" effect and styling
> possibilities
> are nice, but they can be achieved using <span> as well, and,
> besides, they
> are not that relevant to accessibility. Especially since the
> "tooltip" text
> is by default in tiny size and stays on the screen for a few seconds only.

Again, in principle there is no disagreement, however in the context of the
original question the comment/question specifically related to the
appearance of the tool tip, which *can* add accessibility to users with
cognitive disabilities by visually defining (every time) the meaning of the
abbreviated text (or acronym as the case may be), as well as making the
definition available to speech technology if required.  And by cognitive
disability I am not just referring to those with severe limitations;  I deal
with numerous Canadian Federal instituions which regularly use acroymns in
every day speech - they make total sense to civil servants but mean
virtually nothing to those outside of government.  Agencies in particular:
CCRA, PWGSC, TBS... do these mean anything to you? ("Canada Customs and
Revenue Agency", "Public Works and Governments Services Canada", "Treasury
Board Secritariat" respectively).  The "tool tip" would aid non governmental
users by "explaining" terms or acronyms to the non-initiated - improving

> What if some browser with speech capability _really_ treats
> <acronym> markup
> according to its definition? That would mean trying to pronounce
> its content
> as a word. How would "HTML" sound that way?
> > Do you *really* care if UNICEF is an abbreviation
> > or an acronym?
> I do. Every author should. It's apparently a pronounceable word, and
> normally read that way, so <acronym>UNICEF</acronym> is adequate markup.
> Using <abbr> would not be wrong, in the sense that it is _also_ an
> abbreviation, but it is natural to use as specific markup as possible.

Exactly my point.  This word in particular can be both an acroymn and an
abbreviation according to the *common* interpretation of the two terms.  Now
play it out against the current crop of user agents and ask, which of the
two tag elements is better supported today?  And do the average end users
really know or care about the semantic differences between abbreviation and

As for the question you pose:

  <acronym title="United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund"
style="speak: normal;">UNICEF</acronym>
  <acronym title="Hyper Text Markup Language" style="speak:

After all, if the speach browser *really* is doing what the standards
expect, then this too should work <grin>.

> Explain them in prose. Don't rely on any markup. Explain any special
> abbreviation, technical term, code, or other special expression when it
> first appears.  If you expect most visitors to be familiar with the
> expressions, it might be sufficient to put the explanations "behind links"
> (i.e., the first occurrence is a link to an entry in a glossary, perhaps
> with a suitable title attribute that gives a quick hint).

Excellant advice and again, no argument here.


Received on Wednesday, 6 November 2002 07:49:16 UTC

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