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Re: Question about HTML abbr and acronym tags

From: Jukka K. Korpela <jkorpela@cs.tut.fi>
Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2008 18:39:36 +0200
Message-ID: <032201c8514b$e7a42330$0400000a@DOCENDO>
To: "Peter Neumann" <chiaki@dark-chiaki.net>, "Wayne Pollock" <pollock@acm.org>
Cc: <www-html@w3.org>

Peter Neumann wrote:

> I'm not a member of the W3C,

Neither am I, and I'm not affiliated with a W3C member.

> so I'm not able to tell you something
> about their understanding of ABBR and ACRONYM used with plurals.

I am able to tell that what the W3C has _publicly_ said about these 
elements is confused, confusing, and obscure. Until proven otherwise, 
those elements should thus be regarded as useless (or maybe sometimes 
worse). More on this:

> My own opinion is, that every markup have to meet the specific
> requirements in the single and the entire context as well as the
> meanings of the text. Also think about orthography and grammar in
> both the short and long term.

I don't understand what you're saying here.

> If you mark this up with
> ... unique <abbr title="Identities">IDs</abbr> in a table...
> it will be displayed by browsers as
> .. unique IDs in a table...
> and will be read out by screen-readers as
> .. unique Identities in a table...

Do you think so? If it happens that way, then we have yet another reason 
_not_ to use <abbr> markup. In general, an abbreviation should _not_ be 
read as its expansion. The markup is supposed to be _declarative_. Would 
you really want to have each occurrence of "USA" to be spelled out just 
because one of the occurrences is marked up with <abbr title="The United 
States of America">USA</abbr>? Even worse, should "HTML" be spelled out 
if marked up as an abbreviation with a title?

(In your specific example, the title attribute is plain wrong - "IDs" 
should surely be read as "identifiers".)

> In summary, for most cases the entire abbreviation/acronym should be
> enclosed in the corresponding tag with the entire term written out in
> the title attribute.

Well, _if_ <abbr> and <acronym> were ever useful, there would be many 
other details to be decided. In quite a many cases, it is not even 
possible to distinguish the suffix of a plural form of an expression, 
since plurals are formed in so many ways, including stem vowel 
alteration (which even exists in English, e.g. man : men, goose : 
geese). Moreover, the same abbreviation may be used for both plural and 
singular, even if the expansions are different,  e.g. "ft" (or "ft.") 
should normally be read "feet" but sometimes in singular, "foot".

Jukka K. Korpela ("Yucca")
Received on Monday, 7 January 2008 16:39:32 UTC

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