homepage Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from
register, free tools, login, search, pro membership, help, library, announcements, recent posts, open posts,
Pubcon Gold Sponsor 2015!
Home / Forums Index / WebmasterWorld / Accessibility and Usability
Forum Library, Charter, Moderators: ergophobe

Accessibility and Usability Forum

<abbr> vs <acronym>

WebmasterWorld Senior Member drdoc us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 3128933 posted 6:29 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

According to Merriam-Webster:
a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole <amt is an abbreviation for amount>

a word (as NATO, radar, or laser) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term; also : an abbreviation (as FBI) formed from initial letters

an abbreviation formed from initial letters

W3C HTML 4.01 Specification [w3.org]:
Indicates an abbreviated form (e.g., WWW, HTTP, URI, Mass., etc.).
Indicates an acronym (e.g., WAC, radar, etc.).
The ABBR and ACRONYM elements allow authors to clearly indicate occurrences of abbreviations and acronyms. 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.".

So, what exactly is an abbreviation? Let's start with clear-cut abbreviations as per the dictionary definition:

  • amt (= amount)
  • mgmt (= management)
  • Inc. (= Incorporated)
  • etc (= et cetera)

    And let's do the same with some acronyms:

  • laser (= Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation)
  • snafu (= Situation Normal: All <bleep>ed Up)
  • scuba (= Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus)
  • radar (= Radio Detection and Ranging)

    Although originally normal initialisms, the words above are today so common that we consider them "normal", without considering the fact that they were once initialisms like any other. And, it is really initialisms are what mess things up and get confusing. Technically, all initialisms are abbreviations. However, most initialisms are better seen as acronyms. When to use which?

    Semantically, we really need a non-existent HTML element -- <initials> or <initialism> -- for absolute correctness. But, in its absense, use this rule of thumb: If an initilism is typically pronounced as a word, it is definitely an acronym. If it is mere an initialism, treat it as an abbreviation.

    Examples of initialisms better used with <acronym>:

  • NATO (or even "Nato")
  • NASA (or even "Nasa")
  • UNICEF (or even "Unicef")
  • GIF (or even "gif")
  • JPEG (or even "jpeg"), although technically being an acronym-initialism hybrid
  • RAM
  • NIC
  • DOS

    Examples of initialisms best used with <abbr>, due to being spelled out:

  • FBI
  • CNN
  • BBC
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • PHP
  • CD
  • DVD
  • KGB
  • GI

    To ensure proper handling by aural user agents, you should also define the following styles (or equivalents) for inclusion in your aural stylesheet, and apply to elements as needed, even if pronunciation may seem crystal clear to you.

    acronym { speak: normal; }
    abbr { speak: normal; }
    abbr.initialism { speak: spell-out; }



    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Msg#: 3128933 posted 7:59 am on Oct 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Great post DrDoc, although the css use of 'speak:' is not currently supported by JAWS - I tried it a couple of weeks ago.

    Global Options:
     top home search open messages active posts  

    Home / Forums Index / WebmasterWorld / Accessibility and Usability
    rss feed

    All trademarks and copyrights held by respective owners. Member comments are owned by the poster.
    Home ¦ Free Tools ¦ Terms of Service ¦ Privacy Policy ¦ Report Problem ¦ About ¦ Library ¦ Newsletter
    WebmasterWorld is a Developer Shed Community owned by Jim Boykin.
    © Webmaster World 1996-2014 all rights reserved