There are two issues to do with abbreviations that have come up on list
1. the distinction between the abbr element and the abbr attribute
2. the difference between abbreviations and acronyms

So, I thought I'd open the can of worms that Patrick mentioned earlier

The abbr is confusing as it is both an HTML ELEMENT as well as an ATTRIBUTE.
But more importantly, they have completely the opposite roles.

With the ABBR HTML ELEMENT there is generally shortened visible text and the
ABBR HTML ELEMENT is used to give more detailed assistive information. It is
often used in conjunction with the title attribute. For example:
<abbr title="Cascading Style Sheets">CSS</abbr>

With the abbr ATTRIBUTE you have longer visible text and the abbr ATTRIBUTE
is used to give shorter assistive information. It can only be used with td
and th elements. For example:
<th abbr="screws">Long pointy screws</th>

Abbreviation comes from the Late Latin word abbreviare (to shorten) which is
related to brevi (short). While some people disagree, all methods of
shortening words or phrases are subsets of abbreviation.

Some of these subsets include:
- Initialisms
- Contractions
- Acronyms

Defined as: A shortened form of a word or phrase used for brevity in place
of the whole, consisting of the first letter, or the first few letters,
followed by a period (full stop).

- assoc. is an abbreviation for association

Example marked up:
<abbr title="association">assoc</abbr>

Defined as: An abbreviation pronounced as the names of the individual
letters, and is formed only from the initial letter of constituent words.
This distinction is supported by many dictionary definitions, but not by
all.  The first recorded use of the word initialism in the Oxford English
Dictionary (OED) is in 1899.

- USA is an initialism for United States of America
- IE is an initialism for Internet Explorer
- CSS is an initialism for Cascading Style Sheets
- IRS is an initialism for Internal Revenue Service

As there is no HTML "initialism" element, the content would be marked up
with the "abbr" element. Example marked up:
<abbr title="Cascading Style Sheets">CSS</abbr>

Contractions come in two forms.
1. Shortened form of a word which ends in the same letter as the word
2. Short way to write two words as one by writing the two words together,
leaving out one or more letters and replacing the missing letters by an

- Ave is a contraction of Avenue (type 1)
- can't is a contraction of cannot (type 2)
- won't is a contraction of will not (type 2)

As there is no (X)HTML "contraction" element, the content would be marked up
with the "abbr" element. However, it is probably very rare that anyone would
want to specifically mark up a contracted word.

Acronyms are a subset of abbreviations, as they are still shortened words.
However, they are more specific. An acronym is defined as a WORD formed from
the initial letters of a multi-word name. The important point here is that
an acronym must be a WORD - this means that the joined initial letters must
be able to be pronounced.

- OPAC is an acronym for Online Public Access Catalog
- Qantas is an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service
- Modem is an acronym for Modulator-Demodulator

Example marked up:
<acronym title="Radio Detection And Ranging">radar</abbr>

Agree, disagree?
Ahhh, I can see worms coming!

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