[whatwg] acronym - Proposal for re-instating

Jukka K. Korpela jkorpela at cs.tut.fi
Tue Oct 16 01:32:19 PDT 2012

2012-10-16 2:40, Karl Dubost wrote:

> Le 15 oct. 2012 à 11:40, Willabee Wombat a écrit :
>> <acronym> the word is spoken.
>> <abbr> the abbreviation is spelt out, letter by letter.
> […]
>>       - Screen readers may make use of them.
> simple definition.

I don't see the definition as simple; it is short, but not simple. 
Apparently, <acronym> could not mean just "the word is spoken". We are 
not supposed to use it for any word, are we? Instead, the implied idea 
is probably that <acronym> indicates that the word has originally been 
formed as an abbreviation (of initial letters of words). The question 
is: why would it be relevant to indicate such a thing in markup?

In almost all cases, it would be distracting if a screen reader spoke 
the "expansion" of an acronym. Being an acronym means that the 
expression is now a word.

"Abbreviation" is a broad and vague concept, and an abbreviation may be 
spoken in different ways: letter by letter, or by pronouncing the 
unabbreviated word(s), or as a word (as an acronym). Sometimes even by 
pronouncing something completely different, as in reading "e.g." as "for 

> An issue though, (automatic) translation. for example
>      <abbr title="United Nations"
>            lang="en">UN</abbr>
> would have to become in French once translated.
>      <acronym title="Organization des Nations Unies"
>               lang="fr">ONU</acronym>

And what about e.g. CEN, which might be treated as an acronym, or spoken 
using the names of letters (or, in extravagant situations, using the 
words from which the abbreviation was once formed)?

<acronym> is unnecessary and confusing. Even <abbr> is problematic, 
since it has often been interpreted so that the title="..." attribute 
should be read in its stead - even though the attribute was introduced 
into HTML as an advisory title, not as a pronunciation instruction.

The issue of telling the suggested spoken form of some written text 
should be kept separate from any existing markup features. I know that 
some software reads title="..." attributes, but it's normally just an 
option, and it conflicts with other uses of the attribute. Authors may 
wish to use title="..." just to show a visible tooltip, and they do that 
a lot.


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