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OT: Plurals of Acronyms and Initialisms

From: Dennis E. Hamilton <infonuovo@email.com>
Date: Sat, 10 Feb 2001 10:42:16 -0800
To: "Boris Bokowski/OTT/OTI" <Boris_Bokowski@oti.com>
Cc: <ietf-dav-versioning@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NDBBKEGCNONMNKGDINPFMEMAFMAA.infonuovo@email.com>
At first I was surprised by the tendency to treat acronyms (whether
pronounceable as words or not) as nouns with mixed-case plural forms.  In
alliance with this trend, I have been training myself to use the -s and not
the -'s.  Partly because the ODMA specification does that, and I have to
live with it.

I checked with a modest but prominent authority:

1. Form the plural of an acronym by adding an s with no apostrophe.  E.g.,

2. Form the plural of a single letter by adding an apostrophe and an s.  The
letter itself (but not the s) is in italic.  (I have no idea where this came
from.  Sounds like a good reason to avoid having this case, especially when
doing mathematics.)

3. Form the plural of a number by adding an s with no apostrophe.  E.g.,

This is from the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications.

O'Reilly uses the Chicago Manual of Style, and I don't know what that offers
on this subject, but the DocBook book uses "DTDs."  It looks like the
author/editor of that book found many ways to avoid plurals by rewording.
The O'Reilly style sheet lists -s forms in the default spellings for GUIs,
URLs, and BHOs.

I would say that, unless IETF has a specific style requirement for this,
that the -s form is important.  It allows us to speak of URLs and of a URL's

	- OT warning -	-	-	- OT warning -

Notice that whether you say "an URL" or "a URL" is more difficult, because
it depends on how you pronounce "URL" and perhaps on your generation, like
having the final period of a sentence inside an ending quotation.  It's a
yoo-are-ell, when it's not an oo-rl.  I always want to put "an U..." in
print, even though at one time it was considered that U with the yoo-sound,
as in Univac, was not a case of the vowel rule.  But my ear isn't trained
that way, and "an Univac" sounds smoother to me.  Sigh.  I even say "an HTML
document ..." a demonstration that the rule for articles is about
pronunciation, not spelling, for me.  How about you?

Reverting to the previous modest authority, the following is on page 1
(Under Abbreviations and Acronyms):

"Choose a preceding indefinite article ('a' or 'an') based on the acronym's
pronunciation -- for example, 'an ANSI character set' or 'a WYSIWYG

Notice that ANSI and WYSIWYG are initialisms, but they have also become
acronyms as pronouncable words (though in some language yet to be named).
The ever-modest style-guide authors managed to come up with examples that
work for either approach to pronunciation, bless their hearts.

-- Dennis

-----Original Message-----
From: ietf-dav-versioning-request@w3.org
[mailto:ietf-dav-versioning-request@w3.org]On Behalf Of Boris
Sent: Friday, February 09, 2001 18:58
To: ietf-dav-versioning@w3.org
Subject: Re: minor comments regarding 12.2

> > That's always a hard call.  I have consistently used "URL's" instead
> > of "URLs" in the document, since URLs can sometimes be confused as
> > a four letter acronym.  I could change this if anyone cares enough
> > to support this change request (otherwise it's just 1-1, and the
> > wins all tied trivial formatting issues :-).
> I tend to use URLs. The 's form always means "possessive" to me, rather
> "plural".

I second that.

Seems like 2-1 to me , at least so far :-)

Received on Saturday, 10 February 2001 13:40:52 UTC

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