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The term Generally Accepted Accounting Principles is abbreviated as GAAP. (Actually, I don't know if it is an initialism and each letter is spoken, or whether it is pronounced as gap, sorry.)

Now, I just read the phrase, "GAAP rules dictate that ... ." and noticed that if you expand the acronym, you get "Generally accepted accounting principles rules dictate that ... ", which is redundant since rules is a near-synonym of principles. The word was likely added by the writer only to make GAAP function like an adjective rather than the plural noun that to me it properly seems to be.

Would it be grammatically correct, then, to say "GAAP dictates that ..." and accept the mild discomfort with this construction that I feel as a native English speaker? Or is it better to ignore the behind-the-letters meaning and use it as the adjective it seems to "want" to be?

The link in my first sentence above does use the plural, though: "GAAP are a combination of authoritative standards ... ." So it is used in the plural sometimes.

I did read some other answers here that covered more specifically how to pluralize acronyms (such as "GAAPs dictate that ... ") but doubt that any in the relevant industry would think this acronym could properly take an s for pluralization.

Please guide me.

  • A similar situation exists with the baseball term RBI, for "runs batted in." Technically, it can also mean "run batted in" (singular), as in, "The player had one RBI." But more and more you hear sportscasters and announcers using the term in the plural, e.g., "The first baseman had two RBI" instead of "two RBIs." Further confounded by the fact that a nickname pronunciation of RBI is "ribby," in which case the plural "ribbies" is again used if the number is more than one. – Dan Aug 26 '15 at 21:31
  • You've reminded me of RPM as well. I've heard "500 RPMs" and it sure rubbed me the wrong way! But "RsPM" isn't right, either. :) – ErikE Aug 26 '15 at 21:45
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    I think you're overthinking things. GAAP rules is no worse than PIN number, which only pedants scoff at, or please RSVP, which only pretentious pedants scoff at. Some abbreviations will be read as the long form, others, especially acronyms, will be read as a different word which need not have any relation to the original phrase. Furthermore, I see no reason to object to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles rules. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles is a proper noun serving as an adjunct; it's no different from saying United States regulations. – choster Aug 26 '15 at 21:49
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    @choster I apologize deeply if the amount of thinking I like to do about my language is more than you think is the fitting or proper amount (morally or rationally speaking). I do not like PIN number, ATM machine, or Please RSVP for the simple reason that I do like to think about my language and use it intentionally. Regarding your last sentence: I don't agree. Principles does not refer to a governing body but the set of practices themselves. It's more like saying The Golden Rule regulation, which is just plain silly. – ErikE Aug 27 '15 at 7:39
  • @choster P.S. Is it not pedantry to lecture others on how not to be pedants or pretentious pedants? Pedant: "a person who is excessively concerned with minor details and rules or with displaying academic learning." Why do you criticize me simply for wanting to know the right way? Aren't you displaying your own academic learning in doing so? Isn't your scoffing at pedants just another level of excessive concern with rules (just, the ones about not displaying excessive concern)? – ErikE Aug 27 '15 at 7:44
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You should always be able to insert the meaning of the acronym verbatim. The correct thing to do would be to prefix "GAAP" with the proper article:

The GAAP dictate that ...

Some GAAP dictate that ...

All GAAP dictate that ...

There are GAAP that dictate that ...

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