Grammar Tip #1: To A or not to A?
Updated: Aug 16
Ok, so you’ve been following me for a while now (I hope!) 🤞 and you’ve noticed that I’m a stickler for correct grammar and spelling. You’ve noticed this from my posts and blogs, maybe the odd comment here and there and you'd like to know more.
If you’re new to my world, welcome and don’t be scared. Unlike some others out there, I will NEVER publicly correct your grammar – unless you’re being rude.
Grammar, spelling and misused words are the most comment errors I find in my daily work and so, over the coming weeks, I thought I’d help you out by providing a series of short but sweet blogs to help you through some of the simple rules.
Why should you care 🤷♀️?
It's quite simple, really. You should care because first impressions do matter.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you need to know this, so apologies for the bluntness.
‘No matter how good your content is, a glaring error cannot be ignored.’
It’s time to realise that your readers do know and they do care.
Your content’s correctness is a direct reflection of your image. You’re going to make an impression, is it going to be good or bad?
So, let’s start with a common hack for a common confusion.
When you use ‘A’ and when you use ‘AN’.
The rule is, really, quite simple. It's all about the word that you're using and the sound it starts with.
A is used before words that begin with a consonant sound 🧏♀️.
Most consonant sounds do start with a consonant (B, D, G) but there are some cases where a vowel (mainly U) sounds like a consonant and, therefore, requires the use of A, not AN. Let’s take a look at a few examples below:
A celebration 🥳
A building 🏨
A horse 🐴
And here’s the difference with a U:
A university 🏫
Notice that the U is pronounced as a Y. Yuni-versity. This sounds like a consonant and therefore requires the use of A, not AN.
Ok, ready to move on?
An is used before words beginning with a vowel sound (A, E, I, O, U).
An announcement 🔊
An ocean 🌊
An unusual event (note the U is pronounced?)
And then, of course, the exception to the rule?
The silent H! Yep, we have a consonant that is not pronounced at all. So when the H is silent in a word and it is immediately followed by a vowel, which is pronounced, you’re going to use AN.
An hour (note the silent H)
A hotel (note that the H is pronounced and therefore A is used).
I’m not going to lie to you, the English language is a maze of rules. Rules that you get the hang of and then, all of a sudden, you’re told to break them!
By saying the word/s out loud and understanding the basics of the rule, you can usually determine the correct option to use.
If when to use A or AN is your grammar kryptonite 🔮, how about designing a cute graphic to pin onto your office board, or make a tile for your wallpaper?
Is there a grammar rule that you struggle with? Send me a message or pop a comment below and let's see if I can help.
Love creating your content and understand the need for correct grammar but don’t have time to fix it yourself? Get in touch with me. As a copy editor and proofreader I can polish your content so that you’re not having that, OMG where is the edit post button!