Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Style Guide question

Wherein I offer a small glimpse into my day

Question: Should we say "Creating a AAA club" or "Creating an AAA club"?

Using a or an is determined by the way the abbreviation would be read aloud. If it sounds like a vowel, then use an; if it sounds like a consonant, use a. For example,
  • a NATO flight
  • an NAACP meeting

Checking the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A, I found this confirmation:
Q. Dear Sir or Madam: My client prefers to use the article a before an abbreviation such as LCMS. I suggest using an, since the letter L is pronounced “ell.” What does the Chicago Manual of Style recommend?

A. When an abbreviation follows an indefinite article, the choice of a or an is determined by the way the abbreviation would be read aloud, so in this case, we would use an. Please see CMS 15.9 for more information and examples.

So, since "AAA" is normally pronounced "Triple A," I created this handy example, "Bob Drunkard was late for an AA meeting because he had to wait for a AAA tow truck."

Cute and clever, I thought. Then I actually read CMS 15.9:
An initialism such as AAA, normally pronounced "Triple A," should not follow an indefinite article; resort to rewording (e.g., "a map from AAA," not "a AAA map").

Killjoy. Of course I'd rewrite as "Bob Drunkard was late for his AA meeting because he had to wait for the AAA tow truck." For the record, our style guide disallows the use of latinate phrase like "e.g." A simple "for example" works just fine, thank you.


Blogger reader_iam said...

The Chicago Manual of Style is just one among many ...

I do not bow to before its Holiest of Holies.

Though I do have more than one edition in my rather extensive collection of style guides.

2/01/2006 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Agreed. I have a couple handfuls, plus department guides I've helped write. I do agree with their indefinite article complaint, it just kills the joke.

I do enjoy reading their Q&A.

2/01/2006 11:05:00 AM  

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