Thursday 04 July 2002

Questions asked, and answered

Marcus Campbell (check out his unbelievable expandable weblog) cut through the acronym v abbreviation argument by quoting the Cambridge Dictionary:

acronym: an abbreviation consisting of the first letters of each word in the name of something, pronounced as a word

Mark Pilgrim followed up with a reference to the Web Design Group definition:

Unlike other kinds of abbreviations, acronyms are pronounceable words.

As Marcus said, no-one pronounces WWW as wuhwuhwuh so it must be an abbreviation, not an acronym. RADAR, on the other hand, is definitely an acronym. That’s all I was after: a rule. Now I have one, I’m happy.

Then, as I’d anticipated, Professor Salo responded in her customary erudite and comprehensive fashion to my question about bold/strong and italic/emphasis elements. Her solution surprised and delighted me: use the <span> tag for titles and foreign language words and the <em> tag for emphasis.

Burningbird, despairing that “markup folks are going to be the weblogging death of me yet” articulated her dilemma:

Sigh. At this point, I am faced with two choices: I can spend all my time fretting on these issues; or I can work on ThreadNeedle, accept the fact that I’m a hopeless web page slob who will never have an elegant weblog page, and hope that folks like Dorothea and Jonathon will specifically let me know when I’m doing something that makes my material inaccessible, or makes it break within a browser.

In the comments, a multitude of Blogarians rushed to soothe Bb’s fevered brow, including Prof Salo with a offer of remedial work on the Burningbird tempate. There’s a simple answer to Bb’s predicament: devote your time and energy to whatever yields the greatest benefit. So Burningbird should focus on the ThreadNeedle project and I’ll allow my anal retentive side out to play for a little while longer—ensuring that my weblog is accessible, fussing with markup and CSS, worrying about the <i> and <em> tags, and discussing the difference between an acronym and an abbreviation. But, in my heart, I know that the time is rapidly approaching when I’ll say goodbye to 2002 and return to where I belong: Japan in March 1945.

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jonathon, I apologize for any offense my posting may have given. It was intended to be a bit of fun, not to be mean.

I agree with you in that you should return to Japan, March, 1945 and your book. And I should focus on technology, and leave the writing to others.

Again, I never meant offense.

Posted by Burningbird on 4 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Bb, there was no offence taken since clearly none was intended. Your post was fun since it pointed, as I hope mine did to, to the importance of everyone focusing on what is most important to them and what they are best at. My feeling is that you should focus on the technology and the writing (at which you excel) and leave the CSS and markup to others. As for me, I've already booked my ticket back to Japan in March 1945.

Posted by Jonathon Delacour on 4 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Having a rule is indeed a good thing 8-) It's funny because I dropped this "bomb" on a mailing list of friends and we eventually got around to the same answer.

Now I know...

Posted by Patrick Berry on 4 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I like rules myself - more things to break!

BTW, I noticed a new hint of purple hanging about...

Posted by Burningbird on 4 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

One thing that Dorothea Salo left out of her redone markup of your sample passage was the <q> tag. Instead, she used straight double tick marks (or whatever the things we usually call quotation marks, but are actually the typographic marks for inches, are called).

Mark Pilgrim had some discussions about this a couple of months back and has a nice trick in his CSS stylesheet that causes quoted material to appear with typographically correct marks in enlightened browsers such as Mozilla 1.0 and the latest Opera and italic in IE5 and IE6. Older browsers see nothing to distinguish the text at all, and this, in my mind, is the major weakness of the <q> element.

Posted by Tommy Williams on 4 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

You're right, Tommy, I did leave out <q> and I probably shouldn't have.

And I agree with you about the weakness of the element vis-a-vis correct browser display; Mark's trick is CSS2-based, so older browsers won't make it work.

Personally, also -- and I plan to blog about this question, if I can get through the hideously long markup-related post I'm trying to finish -- the <q> element goes past the too-much-work barrier. I suspect it will fall behind it once I really start digging into aural stylesheets (because many quotes will want to be said in a different voice from the main text), but for now I just put in the typographic quotes my own self. :)

Posted by Dorothea Salo on 5 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Say, Jonathon, does using that ticket mean that you won't stop by the blogsphere for visits now and then?

I hope not. We'll miss you terribly.

I'm sorry to be so blunt about this question, but I am widely famed for missing hints.

Posted by Dorothea Salo on 5 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Dorothea, although I've booked my ticket and I have a departure date in mind I haven't yet paid for it. I may check with the travel agent to see if there's a different class of fare that will allow occasional return visits to the Blogosphere.

Shelley, I'm glad you noticed the purple since I put it in for your benefit (copying yet another trick from Dorothea's apparently bottomless bag). I'd very much like this purple (#660066, called "Effete") to replace "Purple" (#800080) in the W3C list of 16 named colors.

Posted by Jonathon Delacour on 5 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Effete Purple. Works. I'd incorporate it into my weblog, but there's only so much clashing that one weblog can support - and bittersweet, sand, aqua, and effete purple will probably cause ocular damage.

If you leave, you will be missed. And when you return, we will be here.

Posted by Burningbird on 6 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

The way I distinguish between the abbr and acronym tags is that "abbr" (the word, not the tag) is an abbreviation -- it's a shortened form of a word, not the initials of multiple words. Any "word" that's made up of initials I treat as an acronym (technically, if I were really picky, it's an initialism unless it's pronounceable as a word). So "WWW", "radar" and "NATO" are acronyms. "Abbr" is an abbreviation, as are "Mr" and "Dr" -- in essence, anything after which you'd add a period in formal writing.

Posted by Stuart Langridge on 8 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Eek, y'all must be horrified by folks like me who are beginners typing half-broken HTML into a free Pita. Is it even legible? Are there ways to use all that neat stuff like Movable Type and CSS when you're on a $0 budget?

Posted by sassafrass on 10 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Not horrified at all, Sassafras. Movable Type costs $0 if you install it yourself. Admittedly, this might be a challenge for a (self-described) beginner but perhaps a technically-savvy friend could help you with the installation. Otherwise the MT people will do it for you for $20.

In answer to your question about your HTML, it is legible, though it doesn't validate. You can see the validator results at:

Posted by Jonathon Delacour on 10 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour