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Thread: "a" vs. "an"

  1. #11
    Gary Kessler

    Re: higher-level writing

    Well, I should hope ALL guidelines you read instruct to include "an SASE," since that's the correct rendering. "SASE" is voiced using the four letters, not pronounced as "sassy." The first letter, "S," is prounced "Es." Since this is vowel sound, "an" should be used--it's the same sound as "an egg" or "an elephant." --Or is there some "funny" in here I've missed?

  2. #12
    Wendy Duncan

    Re: higher-level writing

    Isn't it amazing how being articulate can be such an oddity? It seems the language is being "dummied down" to the lowest denominator these days. I laughed at the debate over teaching Ebonics in California school systems as a legitimate course. Of course, I enjoy dark humor, axe anyone!

    I feel like we try to hold ourselves, as writers, to a higher standard in all things written. When I see correspondence that is full of grammatical errors, lacking punctuation, and full of totally inappropriate word usage, I swear I can actually hear civilization crumbling.

    People tell me: "Hey, I just write the way I talk." And I look at them with a lifted brow and reply, "Yes, you do. Unfortunately." I am just being judgmental, I realize, but these people are supposed to be professional and are presenting themselves as literacy-challenged. I always wonder if they know better, or if they just lack the skills? Maybe I just need an Ebonics course before I become an anachronism myself!

    Wendy D.

  3. #13

    Re: higher-level writing

    OK, why doesn't this sound right to me...."A historical novel."? AN Historical novel sounds better to me, although "A history book" sounds better than "AN history book." What's wrong with my ears, or is there some subtle difference in the "H" sound between "history" and "historical?" AN hysterical laugh works for me, too. It seems like my tongue trips over that "A" and the first part of "historical" or "hysterical." But a woman may well have "A" hysterectomy, not "AN hysterectomy. Am I alone in this???? YIKES!

  4. #14
    Gary Kessler

    Re: higher-level writing

    But, of course, whether or not something sounds right to you or me doesn't have much effect on what the usage rule is, nicht wahr? Think a lot of us just grew up learning "an historical" by rote--because, as you note, it's the exact same sound as "a history book," which we also learned by rote. If you want to say Webster's is your authority, of course, you can cite that (it specifically specifies "an historic occasion") and just thumb your nose at those who demur.

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