Posts

A vs. An Before an Acronym: The Pesky Rule Meant to Confuse

OK, Copy Bitch, I’ve got one for you: Is it proper to use “a” or “an” before the acronym LGBTQ? I am a firm believer that “an” should only be used before vowels, so “a” should be used prior to LGBTQ.  But everywhere I look, people are writing “an LGBTQ.” What say you?

–Rob F, NYC

It’s the vowel or consonant sound that’s critical, not necessarily what the actual letter is itself. So, because you’d say “el” for the letter “L” (which is a vowel sound), “an” is appropriate.

Grammar Girl explains it quite well in this post.

I’ve been encountering this issue lately with the word “urogynecologist” and “urologist.” (I do copywriting work for a urology practice.) Those words don’t use a vowel sound as in “undercoat.” So I’d say, “I bought an undercoat today. But now I need to find a urologist.”

Hey, we’ll work on having sentences make SENSE in another issue, OK?

Hope this helps!

Word Confusion: Compliment vs. Complement

Dear Copy Bitch: Any tricks for keeping compliment and complement straight in my thick skull?

—Confused in Colorado

Answer: Dear Confused: Think “complete” when thinking “complement,” which means “to go with or complete” (when used as a verb) or “something that completes” (when used as a noun). As a trick, just think of the “e”–there are two in complete and two in complement. Think of flattery when thinking of “compliment” as in “I love receiving compliments.”

Examples:

1. “I love it when George compliments me on my fashion sense and sassiness.”

2. “I think a George Clooney Love Nest would complement my lifestyle quite nicely.”