[whatwg] [HTML5] 3.10.9. The |abbr| element

Lachlan Hunt lachlan.hunt at lachy.id.au
Thu Nov 2 01:49:23 PST 2006

Jonathan Worent wrote:
> --- Christoph Päper <christoph.paeper at crissov.de> wrote:
>> First off I think the requirement for a |title| is too strict, 
>> because there are time and space saving abbreviations everyone 
>> knows -- i.e. either their expansion or their meaning -- that do 
>> not need an expansion, e.g. "e.g." or "AIDS". Therefore the second 
>> sentence should use 'may', not 'should'.
> I disagree. There is never a guarantee that people will know what an 
> abbreviation stands for, I know what AIDS is but not what it stands 
> for.

If you know what AIDS means, does it really matter that you don't know 
it stands for "Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome"?  Does it really 
matter you don't know that DNA stands for "Deoxyribonucleic acid", that 
radar stands for "Radio Detection and Ranging", that i.e. stands for "id 
est", or that e.g. stands for "exempli gratia"?  In most cases, it doesn't.

Those abbreviations are so common, that, in the common cases, it really 
doesn't matter for the reader what their expansions are, their meaning 
is already understood.  In fact, for those cases, it's usually not 
necessary to even mark it up as an abbreviation (particularly i.e. and 
e.g.).  It all depends on your target audience and the purpose of the 

e.g.  Say a news site is reporting some new genetics research and 
mentions DNA.  It's not necessary for the site to provide the expansion. 
   In fact, most people wouldn't have a clue what Deoxyribonucleic acid 
means (if they can even pronounce it), so providing that expansion would 
be completely pointless.  However, in a scientific article that is 
trying to explain what DNA is to a scientist, yes it would be useful to 
supply the expansion.

Abbreviation expansions should only be supplied when they help the 
reader to understand the content, not just because the word happens to 
be an abbreviation.

This online book also provides some very useful information.

Lachlan Hunt

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