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Re: using abbr for headers in tables


From: Brid Deely
Date: Aug 27, 2008 5:20AM


Yes, I meant the abbr attribute on the header element (as in the subject

I realised that I had incorrectly used the term "tag" in the email after
hitting the send button and hoped that readers would be forgiving of the

Thanks for your insightful comments.

I had looked into the usage but found it curious that many references on
creating accessible tables leave this item out.

Any further insights relating to usefulness/use by end-users would be of

thanks again,


-----Original Message-----
From: Jukka K. Korpela [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
Sent: 27 August 2008 11:57
To: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] using ABBR for headers in tables

Brid Deely wrote:

> I would just like to ask for feedback on using the abbr tag in table
> headers.

Just don't use the abbr tag. It helps, at most, a very small fraction of
users. It may hurt many, and most importantly it makes you think you have
explained an abbreviation when you haven't.

> Also do you have any recommendations about how it should be used,
> e.g. only for longer headers?

Huh? Do you actually mean the abbr _attribute_, not the abbr _tag_? There's
a big difference.

Here you have an abbr tag:

<abbr title="Useless Initialism">UI</abbr>

which could be used inside a table header or elsewhere. Just don't.

Here you have an abbr attribute:

<th abbr="predicted">Predicted outcome in 2009"></th>

I think the idea is pretty simple, and useful (though not as useful as it
could with wider support):

1) Use it whenever the table header would be too long when pronounced while
reading a large number of cells, speaking first the row and column header
and then the cell content.

2) The abbr value should be short and understandable in the context of the
table, assuming that the user has access to the full header texts (and an
eventual caption for the table).

3) The name of the attribute is really a misnomer. The value need not be an
abbreviation of the content, i.e. something you get by omitting something
from it; it can be just any short expression that serves the purpose of
identifying a column or a row in the context of a table. Typically, however,

it's a word or a few words (not abbreviations!) extracted from the full
content of the cell.