Providing the expansion or explanation of an abbreviation

Important Information about Techniques

See Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria for important information about the usage of these informative techniques and how they relate to the normative WCAG 2.1 success criteria. The Applicability section explains the scope of the technique, and the presence of techniques for a specific technology does not imply that the technology can be used in all situations to create content that meets WCAG 2.1.


Any technology containing text.

This technique relates to Success Criterion 3.1.4: Abbreviations (Sufficient using a more specific technique).


The objective of this technique is to provide information necessary to understand an abbreviation.

An abbreviation is the shortened form of a word, phrase, or name. For most abbreviations, providing the full word, phrase, or name is sufficient.

Some abbreviations represent words or phrases that are borrowed from a foreign language. For instance, many commonly used abbreviations in English are derived from Latin phrases, such as the short list of examples given below. The expanded form is only provided here as background information. For this category of abbreviations, providing an explanation is more helpful than the original expanded form, and the explanation of the abbreviation is provided instead of the expansion.

Abbreviation Latin expansion Explanation
a.m. ante meridiem before noon; in the morning
p.m. post meridiem after noon; in the afternoon
e.g. exempli gratia for example
cf confer/conferatur compare

If abbreviations do not need an expansion (for example, because the original expansion has been rejected by the organization that it refers to or if the abbreviation has become part of the language), provide an explanation, if appropriate, or treat the abbreviation as a word that does not require explanation.


Example 1: ADA

Some abbreviations have more than one meaning, and the meaning depends on the context. For example, ADA means "American Dental Association" in one context and "Americans with Disabilities Act" in another. Only the expansion relevant to the context needs to be provided.

Example 2: English abbreviations for phrases borrowed from Latin

In the following sentence, the explanation "for example" would be provided for "e.g.": Students participating in team sports, e.g., basketball or football, must set their schedules around team practice time.

Example 3: ABS

Some languages (including English and Dutch) borrowed the acronym ABS (Antiblockiersystem: anti-lock brakes) from German. An explanation (anti-lock brakes) is provided, rather than the expansion

Example 4: acronyms with no expansion

Examples of acronyms which no longer have expansions include

  • SIL, which used to mean Summer Institute of Linguistics, is now a name in its own right. See SIL history.
  • IMS, which used to mean Instructional Management Systems, is now a name in its own right.

For this category of examples, a short explanation of what the organization is or does is sufficient.

Example 5: Phrases that were once abbreviations, but have become part of the language

The Dutch fragment "'s nachts" meaning "at night" was originally an abbreviation for "des nachts". In the current Dutch language, the word "des" is rarely used anymore and perceived as archaic. Providing an expansion could be confusing. For "'s nachts" an expansion is not provided.

The English phrase "o'clock" was originally an abbreviation for "of the clock". Since then, "o'clock" has become part of the English language and an expansion does not need to be provided.



For each abbreviation in the content,

  1. If the abbreviation has no expanded form, an explanation is provided.
  2. If the expanded form of the abbreviation is in a different language than the content, an explanation is provided.
  3. Otherwise, the expanded form is provided.

Expected Results

  • All the checks above are true.