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Re: abbr and acronym

From: Jukka K. Korpela <jkorpela@cs.tut.fi>
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2007 07:46:21 +0300 (EEST)
To: www-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.64.0703270730140.20127@hopeatilhi.cs.tut.fi>

On Mon, 26 Mar 2007, Nicolas Krebs wrote:

> If you write a document in "W3C HTML 4", you should follow the definition of
> http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/REC-html401-19991224/struct/text.html#edef-ACRONYM .

I don't think we're discussing the best practice of using HTML 4 here but 
the future development of HTML. But the existing excuse for a definition 
is relevant against the arguments in favor of "preserving" <acronym>, 
since the definition is vague and inconsistent:

"ACRONYM:
Indicates an acronym (e.g., WAC, radar, etc.)."

Is that a _definition_? A rose is a rose... We know that people have 
varying meanings for "acronym", and yet the specification does not say 
which one applies. Mentioning "radar" suggests that the meaning is "a word 
constructed from initial letters of words", as opposite to the meaning "an 
abbreviation consisting of initial letters of words", which is probably 
more common worldwide.

We get into real confusion when the specification says:

"Western languages make extensive use of acronyms such as "GmbH", "NATO", 
and "F.B.I.", as well as abbreviations like "M.", "Inc.", "et al.", 
"etc."."

How does that fit? Who treats "GmbH" as a word? The text seems to treat 
"acronym" and "abbreviation" as distinct concepts, so that one is not a 
subclass of the other. Perhaps "acronym" means "initialism", i.e. an 
expression (a word or just a sequence of letters) formed from the first 
letters of two or more words. Apparently "abbreviation" then means any 
other abbreviated expression.

Yet they have the examples where "WWW" and "SNCF" are marked up using 
<abbr>, not <acronym>.

Hence, the definitions of these elements in HTML 4 are just a big mess.
There is no tangible benefit of using these elements. No wonder they are 
used very little and inconsistently, since authors interpret their 
meanings differently.

-- 
Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
Received on Tuesday, 27 March 2007 04:46:31 GMT

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