Digital

Abbreviations and acronyms

Further information

  • Web accessibility at U.W.A.
  • Check your work
abbreviations

Screen readers, braille readers and other technologies are widely used by those with disabilities. These devices may have difficulties interpreting certain kinds of phrase, however: in general, screen readers do not recognise abbreviations and acronyms and read them as if they were typical written words rather than individual characters.

Abbreviations and acronyms in H.T.M.L.

When abbreviating common or easily recognised words, ask yourself if the abbreviation is then readily understood. If it isn’t, reconsider using it. If the decision is to continue with the abbreviated words, consider web markup of the terms for accessibility.

For example, the phrase “Digital and Creative Services (DCS) at The University of Western Australia (UWA)” introduces two abbreviations. To a screen reader, the abbreviations would not have the intended reading of “D - C – S” and “U - W – A”; instead they would be interpreted as “dics” and “oowah”. To overcome this, the phrase may be rewritten or given web markup that explains the acronym.

Audience

It is also beneficial to explain abbreviations and acronyms to: readers for whom English is a second language; those unfamiliar with colloquial Australian English; those who are new to the concepts presented.

For example, in the sentence “Students and their families are encouraged to walk over this arvo”, not everyone would recognise “arvo” as a colloquial abbreviation for afternoon. The word should then be tagged as follows: “Students and their families are encouraged to walk over this <abbr="afternoon" :hover>arvo</abbr>' or 'Students and their families are encouraged to walk over this <abbr title="afternoon">arvo</abbr>'.

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How to

Acronyms

Using full stops between the letters of an acronym will make screen readers parse it correctly (D.C.S. and U.W.A. would be read out as spelled, for instance).

The web markup tag ABBR is dedicated to explaining abbreviations and acronyms.

ABBR not ACRONYM

In terms of web accessibility, the use of ABBR or ACRONYM tags has been recommended in the past. In the HTML5 specification, however, <abbr> is defined for use in identifying both abbreviations and acronyms. With the prevalence of HTML5 over HTML4, and for consistent editor training, our current advice is therefore to use the <abbr> tag instead of <acronym>.

Alternative text

When writing ALT text web markup tags for acronyms, add spaces between characters; for example <image alt=D C S logo>image</alt>. These provide the best screen reader presentation to the listener.

Written style guide

When writing content for publishing at UWA, be aware of advice on Abbreviations and contractions in the written style guides.

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