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If "an" is required here?

All records in the dataset are sorted in [an ?] ascending order, based on their distances to the hub node.

If it matter or context sensitive, please let me know about the difference.

Thanks

1 Answer 1

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"an" is not required. The following sentence is perfectly acceptable:

All records in the dataset are sorted in ascending order, based on their distances to the hub node.

In fact, it would sound kind of weird to use "in an ascending order". Everybody would understand what you mean, and it's not grammatically incorrect, but "in ascending order" is by far the more common construction, at least when you're talking about data. On COCA, "in an ascending order" only has 2 hits (both of which are in a non-data context), while "in ascending order" has 42 hits.

Note: all of the above comments also apply to "in a descending order" vs. "in descending order".

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  • Thank you for your response. What is COCA. Would you please introduce it?
    – remo
    May 4, 2014 at 7:33
  • @remo COCA is a corpus of American English, meaning that it basically contains a lot of sentences that have been written in American English. By searching COCA for various words and phrases, you can find out a lot about how they are used / which phrases are more common than others / etc.
    – senshin
    May 4, 2014 at 7:36
  • Links are expired
    – remo
    May 4, 2014 at 9:41
  • @remo Oh sorry, I didn't know they were session-based links. Anyway, if you just click on the COCA link and then enter in ascending order or whatever in the search box on the right side of the page, you'll find the pages I linked to.
    – senshin
    May 4, 2014 at 9:43
  • 1
    I could imagine, that it makes sense to use "in an ascending order" for certain mathematical orders (partial orders), where it is possible to order the same list ascendingly (though not strictly ascendingly) in multiple ways, while still using the same order relation. Or it may apply to ordering the same set using different order relations. May 4, 2014 at 10:00

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