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!