Provide a way to expand abbreviations

Examples of the acronyms LOL, LMAO, and ROFL being expanded
Image description: Black text on a white background. On the left are acronyms and on the right, their definitions. The text reads, "LOL: laugh out loud. LMAO: laughing my ass off. ROFL: rolling on the floor laughing."

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Why This is Important

Explaining what abbreviations stand for is accessible to people with cognitive, reading, and memory-related disabilities.

Abbreviations and acronyms are often context-dependent and can be easily misunderstood. Without a shared understanding of what they mean, this is confusing to people who might have trouble remembering or recalling.

This references WCAG criterion 3.1.4 Abbreviations (Level AAA).

How to Implement This

There are a few different ways to expand abbreviations.

Expand the abbreviation inline

For example:

Today we’re going to host an AMA (Ask Me Anything).

Link the abbreviation to a glossary page

For example:

Today we’re going to host an <a href=”www.glossary.com”>AMA</a>

For the reader's convenience, you can also link the abbreviation to footnotes at the bottom of the page using in-page linking.

For example:

Today we’re going to host an <a href=”#ama”>AMA</a>
<div id=”ama”>AMA = Ask Me Anything</div>

The HTML Abbreviation Tag

While you could use the HTML abbreviation tag, this might not be the best solution. According to PowerMapper, the abbreviation tag causes numerous issues with different screen readers and browsers. This also makes the abbreviation expansion only available to screen reader users, even though many people could benefit from them.

(If you are developing a name for something, consider the cognitive effort it takes for people to remember and recall multiple acronyms from different spaces. Think about creating a name that doesn’t require an abbreviation.)


How to Test This

Manually assess the content for any undefined abbreviations.

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