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15:4 Define Acronyms and Abbreviations

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 4 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 2 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


Web Content - Writing


Do not use unfamiliar or undefined acronyms or abbreviations on websites.


Use acronyms sparingly, and define acronyms so that all users can understand them. Use the following format when defining acronyms or abbreviations: Physician Data Query (PDQ). Acronyms and abbreviations are typically defined on first mention, but remember that users may easily miss the definition if they scroll past it or enter the page below where the acronym or abbreviation is defined.


  • Ahlstrom, V. & Longo, K. (2001). Human factors design guide update (Report number DOT/FAA/CT-96/01): A revision to chapter 8 - computer human interface guidelines. Retrieved November 2005, from http://acb220.tc.faa.gov/technotes/dot_faa_ct-01_08.pdf.
  • Evans, M. (1998). Web Design: An Empiricist’s Guide. Unpublished master’s thesis. Seattle: University of Washington. Retrieved May 2003, from http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/webmastr/webdesgn.pdf.
  • Morrell, R.W., Dailey, S.R., Feldman, C., Mayhorn, C.B., & Echt, K.V. (2002, April). Older adults and information technology: A compendium of scientific research and web site accessibility guidelines. National Institute on Aging Report. Bethesda, MD.
  • Nall, J., Koyani, S.J., & Lafond, C. (2001, January). Lessons learned while usability testing the CancerNet Web site. National Cancer Institute, Communication Technologies Branch Technical Report.
  • Nielsen, J. & Tahir, M. (2002). Homepage Usability: 50 Sites Deconstructed. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing.
  • Tullis, T.S. (2001). Web usability lessons learned. Fidelity Center for Applied Technology Technical Report. Fidelity Investments.

Poor Example:

Undefined acronyms on a homepage may leave users confused regarding the site's contents or purpose.


Good Example:

This detailed, highly-technical content page is designed for experts and not novice users. However, the designer has still defined each acronym and abbreviation on the page.