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<ACRONYM> is a misleading misnomer, use <ABBREV> instead

From: Robin Lionheart <lionheart@mad.scientist.com>
Date: Sat, 4 Oct 1997 07:00:50 -0400
To: <www-html-editor@w3.org>
Message-ID: <01bcd0b4$c6af5000$a3c5cfcf@lavender.eclipse.net>
Though the HTML 4.0 working draft is careful to use proper terms in most cases ("user agent" and not "browser", for example), in section 10.2.1 it misuses the term "acronym" in the vernacular fashion, contrary to the word's dictionary meaning.
An acronym is a pronouncable abbreviation that is used like a word itself (ex. radar, modem, NATO). In common speech, many speakers misuse the term to mean the same thing as "initialism" or "abbreviation".

I recommend that ACRONYM be replaced with ABBREV. Using ACRONYM to denote initialisms in general is at best ambiguous, and at worst illogical and counterintuitive. ABBREV however is clear and unlikely to be misinterpreted.

The dead HTML 3.0 specification had both ABBREV and ACRONYM elements, presumably so speech synthesizers could read ACRONYM-enclosed text as words and spell out ABBREV-enclosed text letter by letter.

An excerpt from section 10.2.1 of the latest HTML 4.0 draft, where "acronym" is misused:
The ACRONYM element allows authors to clearly indicate a sequence of characters that compose an acronym (e.g., "NATA", "WWW", "FNAC", "IRS", etc.). The ability to identify acronyms is useful to spell checkers, speech synthesizers, and other user agents and tools.
    Note that some acronyms are pronounced letter-by-letter (such as "IRS" or "BBC"); others are pronounced as words (such as "NATO" or "UNESCO"; still others are spelled out by some people and pronounced as words by other people ("URL", "SQL"). Authors should use style sheets to specify how a specific acronym is to be pronounced.

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Received on Saturday, 4 October 1997 07:01:15 UTC

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