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Expand your use of abbreviations and acronyms

Published: August 8, 2014

If your web pages are littered with acronyms and abbreviations (e.g. HTML, W3C, CSS), you will be pleased to know that HTML 4 (and above) provides a way to expand those abbreviations without clogging up your pages with additional text.

What is the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym?

Abbreviations are any shortened form of written words that represent the complete form, such as UK for United Kingdom, MCU for Making Connections Unit, or etc for etcetera.

Acronyms are abbreviations that are used as a word in their own right when read aloud, such as RADAR, or NASA.

Here is an example of how to use the <abbr> element in your web page:

<p>Use standard <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">HTML</abbr> 
to markup and <abbr title="Cascading Style Sheets">CSS</abbr> 
for presentation.</p>

When the user hovers their mouse over the abbreviation, a ‘tool tip’ will appear containing the expanded form.

I tend to use one instance of the acronym (or abbr) in full then after the first introduction, e.g.

XHTML (eXtensible Hypertext Markup Language) whereafter the next instance uses the acronym. Dependent on copy length I make a judgement call and may introduce another instance of the tag(s). Don’t overdo it, as it can become repetitive verbiage.


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