Define any abbreviations.


Using abbreviations can cause confusion and prevent some of your users from understanding your website. Users with limited memory, cognitive impairments or a reliance on screen magnifier may struggle with shortened words and phrases. 

Avoid using abbreviations where you can and explain them when you need to use them.

Abbreviations (like Dr for Doctor) also include acronyms (NATO) and initialisms (FBI).

How to Pass ‘Abbreviations’

  • Avoid using abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms.
  • If you need to use an abbreviation, you can explain the meaning to your users by:
    • Showing the meaning in the text (for example, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)); or
    • Linking to a definition on a glossary page on your website; or
    • Linking to a definition footnote on the same page; or
    • Using the “abbr” HTML tag.


  • The tidiest solution when you need to abbreviate is the HTML option, which creates a hidden expansion that appears on hover and is understood by screen readers.
  • If your use of an abbreviation always means the same thing, you only have to define it the first time it appears on a page.
  • If your use changes you must define the word on every occasion (for example ‘Dr’ might mean ‘Doctor’ in one paragraph and ‘Drive’ as part of an address in another).
  • Think of creative ways to avoid abbreviations. For example, rather than “FBI” you could use “Federal Bureau of Investigation” once then “the Bureau” afterwards).

‘Abbreviations’ Exceptions

You don’t need to explain an abbreviation, acronym or initialism if it’s part of the language (for example, “laser” or “CD”).

See Also

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I'm Luke, I started Wuhcag in 2012 to help people like you get to grips with web accessibility. Check out my book, 'How to Meet the WCAG 2.0'.

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