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July 2, 2002

Day 17: defining acronyms with the acronym tag

Day 17: defining acronyms.

I used 50 acronyms and abbreviations on this weblog last month: ADA, ALT, CGI, CMS, CSS, CTRL, DMV, DNS, DTD, EFF, FAQ, FSF, GFDL, GIA, GPL, HTML, IE, IIRC, IIS, IO, KB, KDE, LONGDESC, MB, MSDN, MSN, MT, Mac, NC, OPML, P2P, PGDN, PGUP, PBS, PDF, PONUR, RSS, RU, SOAP, SSN, TDD, US, VNC, W3C, WCAG, WYSIWYG, Win, XHTML, and XML.

If you know what all 50 of them mean, congratulations; you have a long and prosperous future as a technical editor. If not, you'll appreciate the fact that I defined each of them with the tag. Hover your cursor over each acronym to see what it stands for. This works in all modern browsers, and is harmless in Netscape 4.

You should define an acronym whenever you use it, or at least>Michael benefits. When Michael hovers his cursor over an acronym, Opera displays the acronym title as a tooltip.

  • Bill benefits. Mozilla goes even further, automatically rendering acronyms with a dotted underline. When Bill hovers his cursor over the acronym, Mozilla changes the cursor to a cursor + question mark, and then displays the acronym title as a tooltip. (You can override this default behavior with cascading style sheets, or use CSS to get a similar effect in other browsers.)
  • Google benefits. Google indexes the acronym title as well as the acronym itself, so people can find your site whether they search for the acronym or the spelled-out description.
  • I wish I could say that Jackie benefits, but she doesn't. Neither JAWS nor any of the other screen readers on the market currently support reading the titles of acronyms. I hope some day they will, and then you'll be ahead of the game.
  • How to do it

    The first time you use an acronym, mark it up with an tag, like this:


    Radio users can automate this markup by using shortcuts. From your Radio home page, click "Shortcuts" in the main navigation menu, then define the acronyms you use frequently. (Be sure to change the input type from "WYSIWYG" to "Source" so you can type the HTML directly.) For example:

    Name: CSS

    Value: CSS

    Then, in your post, simply type "CSS" (with the quotes), and Radio will render it with the acronym tag and the title, just as you defined it.

    [dive into mark]