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Re: [Spam] Re: Question about HTML abbr and acronym tags

From: Christoph Päper <christoph.paeper@crissov.de>
Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2008 08:22:39 +0100
Message-Id: <A0A13BDE-7F49-49E8-B683-9F968FA24345@crissov.de>
To: W3C HTML <www-html@w3.org>

Jukka K. Korpela:
> If you jump into the middle of some page, you cannot expect to  
> start reading it smoothly.

That's a very common scenario in hypertext environments, though. I  
would expect any hypertext markup language to help solving such  
issues that are unusual (although not impossible) for traditional  
sequential texts. Sadly only few authors know how to write non-linear  
texts well. Technology should help, but can't be the solution alone.

> Why would abbreviations and acronyms deserve some _special_ treatment?

One use of this markup is typography, which is independet from the  
problem you raise. There is a semantic reason for any text typeset  
different to the default. These reasons are often badly understood,  
because there's a limited set of acceptable styling possibilities,  
e.g. there are n reasons for italics. That's why it's so hard for  
readers to become writers that don't think in B, I and U buttons.

Another use is in assisstive technology, because the graphic  
realisation of language is often quite different from the phonic.  
It's difficult to develop machine-implementable heuristics that don't  
fail too often. We usually don't use abbreviations in oral speech,  
but acronyms/initialisms are common and shortenings sometimes.
Btw., are there usable screenreaders for non-alphabetic written  
languages? How do they know which reading applies (e.g. "fujisan" vs.  

Another use is meaning distinction or clarification. Here your  
argument applies and this is very similar to any use of /terms/.

> Strange _terms_ are much more difficult, especially if they are  
> common words in uncommon meanings.

That's why their every instance should be marked up and their  
definitions, too, so the user agent may assisst its user to look them  
up on request. This may be as simple as a hyperlink, perhaps further  
categorised (|rel|) or collective (|link rel=glossary|).

>> So either the author need to expand the abbreviation/acronym at  
>> every single instance, or he/she uses something like the abbr and  
>> acronym elements.

It's very unhyper to repeat definitions or expansions verbatim.

> You _would_ then be expanding them at every single instance, just  
> in a title attribute

I agree that it's nonsense to repeatedly give the same |title| for | 
abbr|, for |acronym| (or frequent abbreviations like 'e.g.') it's  
hardly ever useful to give it even once.

I wish I had the time to write a more elaborate aswer.
Received on Thursday, 10 January 2008 07:22:40 UTC

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