Re: Articles with Acronyms

Subject: Re: Articles with Acronyms
From: Beverly Parks <bparks -at- HUACHUCA-EMH1 -dot- ARMY -dot- MIL>
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 1995 11:10:34 MST

> Kelly Burhenne <burhennk -at- SMTPGW -dot- LIEBERT -dot- COM> asks--

> Question: When using an acronym (as you all know, very prevalent in our
> profession) preceded by an article, should you use the article that
> agrees with the first word the acronym represents, or use the article
> that agrees with the pronunciation of the acronym.

> e.g.: an FTP
> a FTP

> a SS2000 (SiteScan 2000)
> or an SS2000

This subject was just covered on another list (CopyEditing-List)
and Matt Hicks, a tech writer in Colorado explained it in a
nice way. I'll paraphrase him, however, because without the
background that went with his post it may lose some meaning.

First of all, to answer the question, use the article that
agrees with the pronunciation of the acronym (and if it's an
initialism, with the pronunciation of the first letter (unless
the initialism is pronounced as a word). Here's why (Matt's idea):

If you expect your readers to mentally expand the initialism every
time they see it (for example, the text reads "a FTP" but you are
expecting your reader to mentally read "a file transfer
protocol"), then YOU should spell out the term each time.
Otherwise, the only person you are saving effort for is yourself,
and you are doing your readers a disservice.

If you are going to use the initialism or acronym, then use the
appropriate article ("an FTP"). Otherwise, spell it out.

Beverly Parks
bparks -at- huachuca-emh1 -dot- army -dot- mil

P.S. Actually, the indented text is pretty much Matt's words
verbatim. I added the parenthetical example.

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