Jul 15, 2013

To Use or Not to Use (Letter _)

written by Sveta Kalinskaya

Several years ago I was listening to a radio interview with a Russian writer. And somehow the conversation touched upon the use of letter “ё” in Russian written texts. The writer was asked if in his opinion it was necessary to actually consider this letter in writing. The answer was – Well, if this letter does exist, it exists for a reason, and for that reason you may well use it in texts. And I thought, why not. To be honest, I didn’t always use it in translations but when there was more time, I’d use it. Not until recently did I finally receive feedback on “ё”’s from a fellow translator who commented that this letter made my translation look like a children’s book, not a programmer’s manual. I felt hurt, and immediately went online to do research and prove my case. Guess what – He was right!

Check websites like http://www.gramota.ru/ or http://orthographia.ru/. They will tell you the history of this letter, the rules for its usage, etc.

According to them, the Rules of Russian Spelling and Punctuation, 2006, state that letter “ё” can be used on a consistent or random basis.

The letter shall be used consistently in:

a) Texts with consistently applied hyphenation marks
b) Books for small children, and
c) Textbooks for elementary school students and foreign learners of Russian.

However, this rule has a number of notes, including a stipulation that based on an author’s or editor’s preference, any book can be printed with letter “ё.”

In other printed texts, the use of letter “ё” is optional. It is recommended to use it:

1. To prevent incorrect identification of a word
2. To indicate the correct pronunciation of a word, and
3. In proper nouns.

And since there is some freedom allowed by the rule, I think I will keep using the letter in translating correspondence or event agendas but will not use it in any other texts unless it’s a children’s book.

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