Carlo considers the NY Times the final word on most style issues and, after breakfast, he looked it up, finding the following FAQ: Why Do Plural Abbreviations Have an Apostrophe?. The key issue here is the use of an apostrophe in the plural of abbreviations that include periods. So, I should use apostrophes for abbreviations that include period; except that I prefer PhD and BSc to Ph.D. and B.Sc. anyway, and I've been doing away with unnecessary periods (and apostrophes) for a long time now.
The "physics convention" for acronyms (e.g. the Phys. Rev. style) includes no punctuation, which I have always liked. However, they permit 's for abbreviations:
To form the plural of numbers add s (1980s), to symbols add 's (A's), and to abbreviations add 's or s (NMR's or NMRs).I strongly prefer NMRs to NMR's.
I find some style choices to be more sensible than others. Style choice depends upon your favo(u)rite flavo(u)r of English. I strongly prefer the American (Harvard)—and Oxford—use of serial commas to the Times UK (+Australian) convention. And I have always been bothered by the following two style and grammar choices:
- The use of an preceding words beginning with h;
- The need for a common-gender singular pronoun.
1. The case for a: Consider constructs such as
"Surprisingly this is an hypothesis..."
"If you are doing a history subject, or tackling a question in any subject that has an historical dimension...".It should be clear that the use of an to precede words beginning with h is rather clumsy. Surely, if the h is not silent then one should use a instead of an?
Consider the following (taken from The Decline of Grammar by Geoffrey Nunberg):
It should be a source of satisfaction that the grammar books of a hundred years hence will be decrying to good effect the tendency to misuse literally, or to confuse imply and infer.I do not think that "...an hundred..." would read better. See also the Elegant Variation and All That by Jesse Sheidlower.
2. The case for they: I quote Neville March Hunnings from the (UK) Times of September 17, 1998:
A common-gender singular pronoun now needs an elegant solution. "Him/her" and "s/he" are ugly; "him" or "her" is cumbersome. On the other hand, "they" has a respectable grammatical precedent. We no longer object to an individual being addressed as "you" rather than "thou". Why not "they" instead of "s/he"?