Skip to main content

The Rule is Not "A" Before Consonants and "An" Before Vowels (Grammar Rules)

Do you put "a" before consonants and "an" before vowels? Many people get this rule wrong, including some of the most grammatically sound people I know. The real rule is this.

Many people adhere to a belief that you use the article "a" before words that begin with consonants and "an" before words that begin with vowels. But that isn't the rule, and it's important to avoid this rookie mistake before turning over your manuscript to agents and editors.

(Grammar rules for writers.)

The real rule is this: You use the article "a" before words that start with a consonant sound and "an" before words that start with a vowel sound. For example, He has a unique point of view on the subject and talked about it for an hour. The "u" in "unique" makes the "Y" sound—a consonant sound—therefore you use "a" as your article, while the "h" in "hour" sounds like it starts with "ow"—a vowel sound.

Make sense?

The Rule Is Not "A" Before Consonants and "An" Before Vowels | Grammar Rules

Here are a few examples:

Correct: I need an hour to complete that task.
Incorrect: I need a hour to complete that task.

Correct: This is a universal technique.
Incorrect: This is an universal technique.

Of course, "a" goes before words that begin with a consonant if they have that consonant sound, just as "an" goes before words that begin with a vowel if they have that vowel sound. In a way, this is a poetic rule, because it's all about sound.

*****

Grammar and Mechanics

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

What happens to historical fiction when history repeats itself? Author Addison Armstrong discusses writing about the past and seeing it reflected in the present.

From Script

Art and Independence (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” television writer Vanessa Benton, Allegoria writer-director Spider One, Hulu’s Prey screenwriter Patrick Aison and director Dan Trachtenberg, and more!

Steven Hartov: On Shocking Truths in Historical Fiction

Steven Hartov: On Shocking Truths in Historical Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Steven Hartov discusses the surprising truths he discovered when writing his new historical fiction novel, The Last of the Seven.

Larry Beinhart: On Rejection Leading to Mystery

Larry Beinhart: On Rejection Leading to Mystery

Award-winning author Larry Beinhart discusses what he learned in the process of writing his new mystery novel, The Deal Goes Down.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: A Competition Announcement, 6 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our self-published e-book awards, 6 WDU courses, and more!

Leah Franqui: On Killing Our Critical Inner Voices

Leah Franqui: On Killing Our Critical Inner Voices

Award-winning playwright and author Leah Franqui discusses how she examined her life through a fictive lens with her new novel, After the Hurricane.

Pacing Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Pacing Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch discusses how to pace your story's fight scene and shares three examples from writers who tackle pacing differently.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Rushing the Drafting Process

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Rushing the Drafting Process

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is rushing the drafting process.

Kwana Jackson: On Finding the Right Home for Your Story

Kwana Jackson: On Finding the Right Home for Your Story

USA Today bestselling author Kwana Jackson discusses writing her new romance novel, Knot Again.