Re: ABBR vs ACRONYM

Liam Quinn (liam@htmlhelp.com)
Fri, 13 Feb 1998 20:46:17 -0500


Message-Id: <3.0.5.32.19980213204617.009f0100@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 20:46:17 -0500
To: roconnor@uwaterloo.ca, www-html@w3.org
From: Liam Quinn <liam@htmlhelp.com>
In-Reply-To: <Pine.SOL.3.95q.980213192157.13671A-100000@wronski.math.uwa
Subject: Re: ABBR vs ACRONYM

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At 07:22 PM 13/02/98 -0500, Russell Steven Shawn O'Connor wrote:
>I'm a little unsure of when to use ABBR and when to use ACRONYM.  The
>specs weren't clear on this.  Maybe it was unclear to avoid controversy.

I think it was...  Here's my take:

Abbreviations include acronyms, initialisms, and other abbreviations.  
Acronyms are pronounceable words formed from the letters of other words, 
for example radar, NASA, and NATO.  Initialisms are also formed from the 
letters of other words, but are typically pronounced letter-by-letter, for 
example FBI, UN, HTTP, HTML.  Some abbreviations, such as URL and SQL, are 
ambiguous since they are pronounced as words by some but letter-by-letter 
by others.  I would suggest always using ABBR for initialisms, ambiguous 
cases like URL, and other non-acronyms.  This ensures that an ACRONYM is 
always a pronounceable word.

Examples:

<ABBR TITLE="United Nations">U.N.</ABBR> 
He weighs 180 <ABBR TITLE=pounds>lbs.</ABBR> 
<ABBR TITLE="Parti Qu&eacute;b&eacute;cois" LANG=fr-CA>PQ</ABBR> 
<ACRONYM TITLE="North Atlantic Treaty Organization">NATO</ACRONYM>
<ACRONYM TITLE="radio detecting and ranging">radar</ACRONYM>
<ABBR TITLE="Uniform Resource Locator">URL</ABBR>

The last example could be combined with a CSS2 style rule to suggest the 
pronunciation:

abbr[title="Uniform Resource Locator"] { speak: spell-out }

One could also use CLASS=initialism with all initialisms, combined with 
the following CSS2 rule:

abbr.initialism { speak: spell-out }

This would help differentiate abbreviations like FBI from ones like St. or 
lbs.

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--
Liam Quinn
Web Design Group            Enhanced Designs, Web Site Development
http://www.htmlhelp.com/    http://enhanced-designs.com/