Do I Use an “A”, or Do I Use “An”? And Does It Really Matter?

Yes, it really does matter. Especially to whomever is reading your writing.

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One of the most common errors I see when reading online comments, stories, blog posts, etc. is the incorrect use of “a” and “an”.

A very simple rule can help you remember which one to use when. If the word following it starts with a consonant, you use “a”. If it starts with a vowel, you use “an”. Simple enough, right? Except for if the word starts with a consonant that is silent, so the word sounds like it starts with a vowel.

Are you still with me? Good. It will all look clear in a minute. 

Such as, “I will be over in an hour.” Or, “I would like an honest answer.”

This also makes sense: “Can I have a pencil?”

Saying “Can I have an pencil?” is painful to read. And yes, I have read this very sentence.

In a book.

That was published.

An editor can be your best friend 🙂 (Did you see what I just did there?)

But then there is also the issue of initials and numbers. In that situation, you will choose “a” or “an”, depending on the way it is sounded out.

“An FDA employee arrived.” The sound of “ef” is why you would use “an”.

“A United States tour.” The sound of “yoo” is why you would choose “a.”

“He gave me a $50.00 bill.” It is the same rule here. You want to choose based on how it sounds, not necessarily how it is spelled.

The more you see these being used incorrectly, the easier it is to tell when you are using it correctly.

What are some issues you have with the very difficult English language and writing rules? Is there something you would like me to address here? Let me know and I will get a post put up covering your questions and concerns!

Until next time…happy writing, and happy reading!

9 thoughts on “Do I Use an “A”, or Do I Use “An”? And Does It Really Matter?

  1. Aimer Boyz July 14, 2015 / 10:07 pm

    Yes, I saw what you did there, nice 🙂 Also, in your second sentence, “Especially to whomever…” I would have messed that one up. Does anyone really use “whom” anymore?

    • Angela July 15, 2015 / 5:49 am

      I find that who and whom can be interchanged without sounding horrible, so it is a tough one to edit when someone uses it incorrectly but it does not sound anywhere near as bad as “I got an gift from them.” 🙂

      • Aimer Boyz July 15, 2015 / 8:19 am

        LOL! I know, that one almost hurts 🙂

  2. Heather M. July 15, 2015 / 12:16 am

    I always thought “A” and “An” were so easy. It just always made sense if I used it right and sounded like nails on a chalkboard when used incorrectly.
    I have always had trouble deciding when to use Who and Whom.

    • Angela July 15, 2015 / 5:47 am

      Who and whom are tough ones. In some instances they can be interchangeable, while although not correct, they sound okay. I see these errors a lot as well.

  3. dublinbookworm July 15, 2015 / 2:57 am

    The one that always bugs me is when people use “there”, “their” or “they’re”, and “your” or “you’re” wrong. It’s really not that hard but people seems to have a lot of trouble with it. Then there’s the regional variations. There seems to be certain things which are acceptable in American English but aren’t in British English. They jar when I’m reading an American book. The one that always sticks out is “I’ll write you” or “I wrote you”. That seems to be ok in American English but is grammatically incorrect in British English where you should say “I’ll write to you” or ” I wrote to you”. But then I speak and write in Hiberno English which includes phrases which are grammatically incorrect in British English but accepted in Hiberno English so what can you do.

    • Angela July 15, 2015 / 5:45 am

      Those are a pet-peeve of mine 🙂 I will be addressing these on an upcoming post. I agree with the “I’ll” examples as well. It has me wondering how this would, and should, be edited in books as it is considered normal for American English. Thanks for visiting!

      • dublinbookworm July 15, 2015 / 5:54 am

        I would take the view that if the characters are American it’s fine as speech should of course reflect the dialect of a character but if they aren’t the grammar should be changed the same way the spellings are changed.

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