Knowing when the <abbr> tag should be used and when the <acronym> tag should be used is very important, especially considering that speech synthesizers, screen readers, browsers and search engines; They process them differently.
This document analyzes the guidelines that refer to these two elements and the behavior of various user applications in front of them, explains what they are, and how to differentiate them in order to use them correctly. In addition, it suggests some technology to be developed to facilitate its use and understanding.
For speech synthesizers and screen readers or reviewers:
Voice synthesizers have dictionaries, fixed and configurable by the user, that collect abbreviations and acronyms so that when a screen reader finds one of these elements, it reads it as it appears in the dictionary, that is, in its expanded form and not in its abbreviated form. Although the <abbr> and <acronym> element tags have been created so that when a screen reader encounters them, their associated synthesizer reads the "title" attribute instead of the element's content, they still don't.
To verify the behavior of the most widely used screen readers, synthesizers and browsers in the Spanish-speaking world, I created a page with 7 examples of the use of abbreviations and acronyms, and I asked members of tiflotecnología lists and members of the ACCESOWEB list from Sidar, to report on the results obtained; My thanks to the people who collaborated doing the tests. See test page and results.
Testing has shown that no version of the various screen readers responds to the "title" attribute of the abbreviation or acronym tag.
The abbreviations "etc." and "USA" they are read correctly by those readers whose original dictionary collects their meaning, because they are abbreviations commonly used in our language. None of the acronyms used on the test page were read correctly.
Although, as we will see later, it is up to the authors to offer a list of the abbreviations and acronyms used on the page, I think it would be useful for users of screen readers, just as it can be done with the links that appear on a page, a list of abbreviations and acronyms could be obtained, in order to facilitate their inclusion or not in the configurable dictionary for the reader.
Of course, if the screen readers examined responded correctly to the presence of abbreviations and acronyms, it would be enough to facilitate the inclusion of the abbreviation or acronym and its meaning, in the dictionary, the first time it appears on a page, if not is already collected.
Some browser versions, when the mouse pointer is placed over an abbreviation or an acronym, labeled as such, present the user with a kind of label next to the pointer, called a " tool tip ", in which you can read what the developer has written as attribute "title" of the abbreviation or acronym; others display this text in the status bar as well. Let's see what the test results have been.
|Opera 5.02||Tip and status bar||Tip and status bar|
|Internet Explorer 5.0||--||Type|
|Internet Explorer 5.5||--||Type|
|Netscape Communicator 4.5||--||--|
|Netscape Communicator 4.7||--||--|
|Netscape Communicator 6.0||Type||Type|
|Opera 5.02||Tip and status bar||Tip and status bar|
|Internet Explorer 5.0||--||--|
|Netscape Communicator 4.01||--||--|
|Netscape Communicator 6.0||Type||Type|
|Netscape Communicator 4.76||--||--|
From the table we can deduce that the most current versions of the various browsers include this utility which, despite the redundancy, is truly useful for users who can see it, as it saves time and scrolling through the site, if the site includes the description of the meaning of the abbreviation or acronym in question and, in the worst case, saves the need to go to a dictionary to find the meaning.
Let's now see what the accessibility guidelines, specifications and techniques tell us about when and how these elements and their attributes should be used.
In guideline 4 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, in its control point 4.2, we are told:
4.2 Specify the expansion of each abbreviation or acronym when it occurs for the first time in a document. [Priority 3]
For example, in HTML, use the " title " attribute of the ABBR and ACRONYM elements. It also helps the usability of the document to provide expansion in the main body.
Techniques for checkpoint 4.2
Which brings us to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Techniques 1.0, in which we are told:
4.2 Specify the expansion of each abbreviation or acronym when it first appears in a document. [Priority 3] (Checkpoint 4.2)
Which brings us to HTML Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, in which we can read:
Checkpoints in this section:
Mark abbreviations and acronyms with ABBR and ACRONYM and use " title " to indicate expansion:
<P>Welcome to the <ACRONYM title="World Wide Web">WWW</ACRONYM>!
End of example.
This also applies to shortened phrases used as headings for rows or columns of a table. If the header is already an abbreviation, provide the expansion in ABBR. If the header is long, you may want to provide an abbreviation, as described in Data Tables.
... <TH>First name</TH> <TH><ABBR title="Social Security Number">SS#</ABBR>...
End of example.
Note that the previous example of an acronym is incorrect, since it is really an abbreviation. Later we will see that the same initials are used as an example of an abbreviation and, we will also see the reasons that our Royal Academy gives so that we understand that it is an abbreviation.
But it is in the HTML 4.01 specification, where these elements are defined:
Indicates an abbreviated form (For example: WWW, HTTP, URI, Mass., etc.).
Indicates an acronym (For example: WAC, radar, etc.).
The elements ABBR and ACRONYM they allow authors to clearly indicate the occurrences of abbreviations and acronyms. Western languages widely use acronyms such as " GmbH ", " NATO ", and " FBI ", as well as abbreviations such as " Mr. ", " Inc. ", " et al. ", " etc.". Both Chinese and Japanese use mechanisms analogous to abbreviation, where a long name occurs it is subsequently referred to with a subset of the Han characters from the original occurrence. Marking these constructs provides useful information for browsers and other tools such as grammar checkers, speech synthesizers, translation systems and search and indexing programs (search engines).
The content of the elements ABBR and ACRONYMspecifies the shorthand expression itself, as it might normally appear in running text. The " title " attribute of these elements can be used to provide the full or expanded form of the expression.
Here are some examples of the use ofABBR:
<P> <ABBR title="World Wide Web">WWW</ABBR>
title="Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer">
<ABBR lang="en " title="Miss">Miss</ABBR>
Note that abbreviations and acronyms often have idiosyncratic pronunciations. For example, while "IRS" and "BBC" are normally pronounced letter by letter, "NATO" and "UNESCO" are pronounced phonetically. However, other shorthand forms (for example, "URI" and "SQL") are spelled by some people and pronounced like words by others. When necessary, authors should use Cascading Style Sheets to specify the pronunciation of an abbreviated form.
Here the definitions are correct, although unfortunately some of the examples are not. In the examples that appear in the abbreviation definition, two acronyms have been slipped into them: HTTP and URI, and later, when examples of the use of the ABBR element are shown, the second, SNCF is clearly the acronym for: Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français, all French people pronounce the initials and clearly understand what they mean; and the Spanish abbreviation example contains a typo because the content of the element is not abbreviated.
Later in these same techniques (http: //www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-HTML-TECHS/#table-summary-info) the use to be made of abbreviations when creating tables is explained:
Checkpoints in this section:
And in the Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, it says:
5.6 Provide abbreviations for header tags. [Priority 3] (Checkpoint 5.6)
That is, abbreviations and acronyms should be marked with their corresponding label, at least the first time they appear in the text and it is suggested that, to improve usability, their meaning should be expanded, in the document body itself, the first time they appear. are used. Actually, this indication to expand the meaning in the body of the document should refer only to acronyms and abbreviations created by the author, since it makes no sense to expand commonly used abbreviations (such as: "etc.").
But since a Web document can consist of many pages and it is possible that the user will start reading it from any of them, it is advisable to always mark the abbreviations and acronyms so that the user does not get lost, since it is not certain that he will start reading from where the meaning of the same is declared.
Also, it is especially important to use abbreviations for table headers, as this way the user using a screen reader will not have to hear long header names over and over again.
Since we found errors and typos in the examples presented in the cited documents, how can we differentiate the proper use of one or another tag?
After long discussions in the WAI lists, in which no consensus was reached and in which some tried to eliminate one of the two elements, I decided to consult our Royal Academy about the difference between abbreviations and acronyms, since I consider that it is important keep the labels of these two elements that are not the same thing and cannot be confused; and here is his response:
Sent on: Monday, March 05, 2001 11: 34
To: [email protected]
Subject: Consulta RAE (abbreviations, acronyms and acronyms)
It is the reduced graphical representation of a word or group of words, obtained by eliminating some of the letters or syllables of its complete writing. In principle, any word can be abbreviated (except, of course, those that already have their own reduced form), hence a distinction is usually made between "personal" abbreviations, those that any particular speaker generates for his own use in his private writing, and "conventional", which are those recognized and commonly used by users of a language. Within the conventional abbreviations, there are those of general use, while others restrict their use to particular situations, as is the case, for example, of the abbreviations that an author uses within a book, and that must be collected at the beginning or at the end of the book. end of the work in an explanatory list.
The abbreviation must be effective and, for this reason, you must remove at least two letters from the abbreviated word, even though there are widespread examples where only one is removed: vid. (by vide).
The use of conventional abbreviations is not free, but is limited to certain contexts and subject to certain rules; thus, in general, abbreviations cannot be used anywhere in the text: Suddenly, I looked to the *left. and I saw them together. Treatment abbreviations should only be used before the proper name (Mr. González, Ms. Juana, etc.). Nor is it appropriate to write an amount in letters followed by the abbreviation of the quantified concept: *five pts. (for five pesetas).
The word acronym designates, on the one hand, each of the initial letters of the words that are part of a denomination and, on the other, the word formed by the set of these initial letters. The acronyms are used to refer in an abbreviated way to organizations, institutions, companies, objects, systems, associations, etc., whose complex names make their full name annoying every time you want to refer to them.
Types of acronyms according to their reading
Depending on their formal structure, three types of acronyms can be distinguished:
The word acronym designates, on the one hand, the term formed by the union of elements of two or more words, normally constituted by the beginning of the first and the end of the second or, also, by other combinations. Examples: muppet, television and doll; docudrama, dramatic documentary; modem, modulation and demodulation; Mercosur, from the Common Market of the South; Pemex, from Petróleos Mexicanos; Inserted, from the National Institute of Social Services. On the other hand, the acronym is also called the acronym that is pronounced as a word: NATO, UFO, AIDS. Due to their pronounceable form, it is very common that acronyms, after a first phase in which they appear written in capital letters due to their acronym status (UFO, AIDS), end up being incorporated into the common lexicon of the language and are therefore written with lowercase letters (ufo, aids), except,
Differentiation between abbreviations and acronyms (or acronyms)
The academician Manuel Seco, in his Dictionary of doubts and difficulties of the Spanish language clearly explains how to distinguish abbreviations and acronyms:
"In this the acronyms differ from the abbreviations. One and the other serve to abbreviate what is written; but the abbreviation is read by translating what is written by what is represented in it (thus, Mr. is necessarily read "sir", [ USA is read "United States"]), while the acronym is not translated, but is read as written [either as a word as in APA or BOE, or spelled as in ISBN]. Abbreviations are nothing more than shortened forms in writing; acronyms are actual words used both in writing and in speech."
(The text in square brackets is ours).
Abbreviations and acronyms also differ in their writing:
abbreviations are always written with a period (p., s., sec.), acronyms
and acronyms are mostly written without a period (APA, UN); the
abbreviations have a plural (pp., ss., paragraphs., VV. AA.), the
acronyms are invariable (the NGOs, the APAs); abbreviations keep the
tilde in the same letter that has the tilde in the word they represent
(page, admon.), acronyms never have an tilde, etc.