Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: self-addressed stamped envelope.

self-addressed stamped envelope. Though sometimes condemned, this phrase is now firmly entrenched in American English (especially in the abbreviated form SASE). “Self-addressed” isn’t merely “addressed by oneself,” but commonly means “addressed for return to the sender.” The prefix “self-” prevents vagueness: an envelope that’s merely addressed could be addressed to anybody. How should one pronounce SASE? And which indefinite article should it take, “a” or “an”? Dictionaries say that each letter should be enunciated /ess ay ess ee/. But in informal speech, many people prefer to sound it out /SAY-zee/. It would seem logical in formal writing to treat SASE as if each letter were sounded out {an SASE}. But by a 2-to-1 ratio writers treat it the way readers would hear it {a SASE}, which gives the prose a more natural sound. The article “a” has the further advantage of being the correct choice if the reader mentally unpacks the acronym {a self-addressed stamped envelope}. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Literature is written by and for two senses: a sort of internal ear, quick to perceive ‘unheard melodies’; and the eye, which directs the pen and deciphers the printed phrase.” Robert Louis Stevenson, Learning to Write 217 (1888; repr. 1920).

2 thoughts on “Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: self-addressed stamped envelope.”

  1. Dennis McGoldrick

    a prefix is affixed, not hyphenated. You say “self” is a prefix, but you turned it into a pre-hyphen.
    I am very frustrated by the use of a hyphen to affix a prefix. There is no such thing as a prehyphen (pre-hyphen?). What does affix mean to you? To add a hyphen?

    Do you have any idea how to get Microsoft Word and Word Perfect to fix their spell checkers so they stop making prefixes as misspelled?


  2. I understand that SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) is now a common term, but it sounds as though the envelope has addressed itself. The term pre-addressed stamped envelope sounds like a more accurate term.

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