a VS an again

Subject: a VS an again
From: David Handy <davidh -at- automsoft -dot- com>
To: "'techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 10:58:22 -0000

> Seems to me that whether you write a_or_an here depends on whether your
> readers aspirate that initial H. I live in Ireland where we don't
> generally drop our Hs (other Hibernoscribes may disagree?) so I would not
> write about_an_historical_anything, but that's just where I live. In my
> opinion, written language ineluctably follows spoken language, so if you
> and your readers drop your Hs then use an by all means. The bottom line as
> always has to be: whatever rules you follow, be consistent.
> Note: this doesn't mean it's open season on the letter H. I don't think
> I've ever seen an_hotel in print for example, but maybe I don't read
> enough.
> This is relevant (really) because sometimes we must make decisions on
> spelling and grammar for heterogenous audiences. If I write for an Irish
> audience I can rely on a standard conventions for a/an, comma placement
> and so forth (see?) If I write for an American audience I must write
> differently. In my current role I must write the same docs for a
> (potentially) global readership. So I choose to use US styles in those
> docs, but I consider it a bit of a fudge. And there's another argument
> about different contexts. Some writers have latitude to insert their own
> colloquial style into their text (newspaper columnists for example). Tech
> writers typically don't.
> Then I pick up Fowler (1996) and read the bald statement that "The type
> an_historical (not a_historical) is recommended." Oh well.
> Still, must agree with Tom Murrell that *historic/historical* is the
> interesting issue in this case. Again that depends on the context.

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