The Difference Between an Acronym and an Abbreviation

Ten to one, if you’re posting an article, creating a web page, or just coding some HTML; and you’re about to code in a <abbr> tag to let people not “in the know” get what exactly it is that you’re talking about, you actually should be using the <acronym> tag instead. Maybe you’re not even doing it for the people, and you’re actually just a benevolent person that cares about a truly semantic web and wants the bots to also grasp just what it is that’s being said.

Either way, it’s good to know when to use an <abbr> tag and when to use an <acronym> tag. At face value, <abbr> is for abbreviations, and <acronym> is for, well, acronyms. ‘But what’s the difference?’ Joe Blogg asks…

NASA is an acronym. BBC is another. But gov’t and Mr. aren’t – they’re abbreviations. In Grammar 101 it was easy to tell the difference, but in real life, it can get kind of confusing. But the general rule is, if it’s pronounced by spelling it out, it’s an acronym. If it doesn’t have a period, it’s an acronym. But most importantly, if you can spell it another way, chances are it’s an abbreviation.

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