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Is it correct to use the word aforementioned in an open-ended chatting context in which the conversation backtracks, such that the item that was mentioned before (as in, earlier in time) in the conversation actually appears undermentioned in the view? This might also occur in a conversation about a collaborative document that is being discussed within the document. If this is not correct usage, what would be correct?

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Note that referential words like "below" and "above" are also best considered markers of time, rather than physical location: "above" refers to words read a short while ago, be they physically above the current sentence, or in a column to the left, or on a previous page. The same usage of "above" (supra) and "below" (infra) can be found in classical Latin. This might have something to do with scrolls, but I am not sure. –  Cerberus Mar 28 '11 at 22:38
    
@Cerberus: I’m not quite sure I’d describe them as markers of time. As you say, it’s certainly a somewhat abstracted sense of “above”, including text on earlier pages and so on. But it still is a matter of location in the text, not of when you expect things to be read, I think. Suppose a writer has a footnote attached to a sentence at the top of a page; the footnote is placed at the bottom of the page; and then she refers to it later in the main text of the page, expecting the reader to have already read it. I would find abovementioned odd here, whereas aforementioned would seem fine. –  PLL Mar 30 '11 at 2:29

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, it’s perfectly accurate. The afore in aforementioned is a comparison of time, not in location, so there’s no problem.

On the other hand, depending on context, it might or might not be advisable. Writing about the aforementioned bananas will confuse a reader if they haven’t already (and quite recently) read the mention of bananas that you’re referring to. So if you expect some participants to read your new mention of bananas before the original mention, then I’d suggest you avoid using aforementioned, even if it is technically accurate.

If you expect everybody to have read the original mention shortly before reading your new one, though, then the aforementioned bananas could a very helpful and eloquent way to jog their memories and clarify your reference.

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Using 'aforementioned' should signal new participants in the conversation that the object received attention earlier, and prompt them to search for the earlier entry, or at least ask about it, if they want more information. –  oosterwal Mar 28 '11 at 21:49

You could reference the time of the message being referred to -- assuming everyone in the conversation sees the same time stamp.

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