But I like the article because it provides a unique example of when to use an and when to use a before a noun or adjective. By highlighting the correct rule for making that choice, she reveals misunderstandings about that rule:
- Wrong: Use a before words that begin with a consonant, and use an before words that begin with a vowel.
- Right: Use a before words that begin with the sound of a consonant, and use an before words that begin with the sound of a vowel.
She concludes with this advice about which word to use with ukulele:
If you’re writing for a national publication, I suggest you stick with “a ukulele”; but if you’re writing for a Hawaiian publication, you should definitely go with “an ukulele.”Here's how I put the use of a and an in the first entry of my online writing guide, Garbl's Editorial Style Manual; I also include the:
a, an, the The articles a, and and the are adjectives that modify nouns. Use the to point to a specific noun; use a and an to point to a general, nonspecific noun: Please bring me the newspaper suggests a specific newspaper, while Please bring me a newspaper doesn't specify which newspaper.
Use a before consonant sounds: a European country, a B.A., a historic event, a one-year term, a style manual, a utopia. Use an before vowel sounds: an 18-year-old candidate, an environmental disaster, an FDA study, an MBA, an heir apparent, an honorable man, an hour ago, an NBC sitcom, an SBA loan. If the letter h is sounded, use a: a hamburger, a history book, a house, a hotel.______
Fogarty's article is featured today, Feb. 6, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Styles tab above and by free email subscription.