Anne van Kesteren

Abbreviations, not for end users

When I was reading some messages in www-html, I found the following article: ABBR and ACRONYM are for user agents not for end users. It addresses a lot of interesting points regarding abbreviations and markup. Go read it!


  1. Well, how about the dfn element? It's purpose is to define the term it encloses in running text. For example:

    The dfn (definition) element is intended to be used for definitions of terms in running text.

    Posted by liorean at

  2. An abbreviation is for user-agents only; no it's not April 1st, I've just checked my calendar.

    Some points made were sensible and common practice but I'll be XYZZY if the consensus is they are just for a user-agents benefit.

    Posted by Robert Wellock at

  3. Confusing, a lot of people just got used to use these tags and now it appears they are on their way out or have to be used in a different way.

    I think the people from the W3C should really make up their minds this time. Like I read somewhere else lately: "The W3C should recommend more and deprecate less".

    Posted by Bobby van der Sluis at

  4. They do have a point here, it's only useable for people who are reading the text on screen. If its media is printed, you loose this kind of information and that is something to think about.

    Posted by Mark van Eijk at

  5. @print{

    Posted by Anne at

  6. Going marginally off-topic:

    One of the few things you can loose is an arrow.

    Losing information
    e.g. to lose information is a different concept entirely.

    This has been a visit from the Spelling Bureau.

    Posted by Chris Neale at

  7. I agree fully with Robert. Mr. Tverskov makes a few valid points, especially about the guidelines being unclear. But deducing that <abbr> and <acronym> are useless to human readers is absurd.

    The way most graphical user agents handle them, i.e. showing the title as a tooltip, works very well in most situations. It keeps the text short, but provides reminders for the reader should he or she need them.

    Although it leads to some bloating, I think it's useful to provide an in-text expansion at the first occurrence (or at least near the beginning), then use the markup elements and the title attribute for subsequent occurrences.

    @Anne (#5): I thought something along those lines, too. With :after you can add the expansion after the abbreviation.


    Posted by TOOLman at