We look at content in this issue of our Best Practice of the Week (BPOW): It’s easy to forget that a couple of letters share different meanings until you hear them in a screenreader.

It’s easy to forget that a couple of letters share different meanings until you hear them in a screenreader. Screenreaders like JAWS, VoiceOver or NVDA use synthesizers that automatically expand abbreviations and acronyms. They make some assumptions when they come across “Mon.” and say “Monday.” This feature works well for common abbreviations like days of the week or months.

Then, you come across an address in the friendly Canadian city of Winnipeg, Megabyte.

MB is an abbreviation that has a variety of uses. When it’s right after Winnipeg, MB means Manitoba but everywhere else MB means megabyte. But, there’s no context for the screenreader and you’ll hear “megabyte.” 980 MB and 980 mb are not the same thing either. A screenreader reads the lowercase mb as “millibars” – a unit of measure for air pressure.

If you must abbreviate, make sure you’re using the common forms of abbreviations. If in doubt, use the abbr element.