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Re: abbreviations


From: Denis Boudreau
Date: May 26, 2010 12:51PM

Hey all,

Like Geoff, I never use the <abbr> or <acronym> tags. Never been a great fan. I always preferred defining the first occurence of the abbreviation or acronym in content instead.

Geof, were you implying that Jaws will read the content of the <abbr> or <acronym> element if it's defined by the @title? What weould Jaws read if it stumbled across:

<acronym title="North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ">NATO</acronym>
<abbr title="Monday">Mon</abbr>

My understanding has always been that by default, Jaws would not read the @title attribute on anything but <img>, <area>, <input> or <frame>. Can it read it on <acronym> or <abbr> too?

Besides that, Ben Meadowcroft had an interesting article on the subject a couple of years ago that sums up really well how I feel about using <abbr> and <acronym>: <http://www.benmeadowcroft.com/webdev/articles/abbr-vs-acronym.shtml>;.

Part of my dislike for those tags also goes back to a few years ago, when one or the other wasn't properly supported in MSIE (can't remember which one if was or what the support problem was). Now, part of this may be based on misunderstandiong from my part, but both tags have always felt broken to me for a few reasons:

the differences in interpretation between most dictionnairies and what the W3C defines
the inconsistent use of both terms in the HTML spec (the W3C mixes both terms in the standard)
the lack of device independancy (in this case, the mouse) and won't be usable with the keyboard only
it's not visible to sighted users unless their mouse hovers over the content

I'd much rather explain what the acronym or abbreviation means on it's first occurence in the page (other than navigation or headings, for obvious reasons) by presenting it explicitely first, then give out it's acronym or abbreviation in parenthesis. A side practice would be to do the exact opposite, but always on the first occurence (still, excluding headings or navigation). Examples :

blah blah blah NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) blah blah blah
blah blah blah North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) blah blah blah

Other possibilities could include refering to footnotes on the same web page, or using a glossary on the website for example. As imperfect as these two options may be, both are more interesting to me than relying on the <abbr> or <acronym> tag.

Denis Boudreau

On 2010-05-26, at 11:16 AM, Geof Collis wrote:

> Hi Dan
> Personally I dont use <abbr> tags, I always expand the abbreviation
> or acronym the first instance on a page and I have JAWS set to ignore
> them. I just dont consider it that important but I'm willing to
> listen to counter arguments.
> cheers
> Geof
> At 11:02 AM 5/26/2010, you wrote:
>> Apologies if this has been discussed ad nauseam already.
>> I know Jared has said in the past that WebAIM has shifted away from
>> abbreviating from abbreviating common terms like HTML. I've considered
>> this -- I expand things like PDF and etc, which probably do more harm
>> than good -- but haven't actually changed anything yet, as our grant is
>> nearly up and I plan on doing a site revamp if/when we're refunded.
>> I'm being forced to confront the issue now, though, as I'm formatting a
>> long article on HIV/AIDS, and I think having the text 'Human
>> Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome' repeated at
>> least once a paragraph would get wordy (and confusing) very quickly.
>> So: is this something I should just let slide without a tag? Should I
>> give them plain <abbr> tags? I don't know how screen readers would
>> approach it, or if people are used to hearing 'hiv' pronounced and can
>> auto-correct it in their head.
>> --
>> Dan Conley
>> Information Specialist
>> Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information and
>> Exchange (CIRRIE)
>> University at Buffalo, Health Sciences Library B6
>> Phone: (716) 829-5728
>> http://cirrie.buffalo.edu