Tips for using a and an before words that start with h or u.


This is a small thing, but it makes your writing so much more credible. It’s all in the details!

Use a before words that start with the enunciated letter h:

  • History. A history class about famous churches.
  • Hazard. Going without sleep is a hazard to your health.
  • Home. She bought a home in the hills.

with words with the phonic sound yew:

  • University. She attended a university in Rome.
  • European. France is a European nation.
  • URL. You need a URL for your website.

Use an before

words that start with silent letter h:

  • Hour. It took an hour to drive to the mountains),
  • Herb. Use an herb to flavor your cooking),
  • Heirloom. The silver brush is an heirloom from my grandmother.

words that start with a short u:

  • Uncle. He is an uncle of mine.
  • Underdeveloped. An underdeveloped bee has no wings.
  • Urgent. They put out an urgent call for supplies.

and acronyms that start with with a vowel sound:

  • M(em)CPS—Montgomery County Public Schools. An MCPS student.
  • L(el)GBTQ—Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. An LGBTQ study circle.
  • N(en)PR—National Public Radio. I work at an NPR station.

Inspired by Woe Is I, by Patricia T. O’Connor. Copyright 1996.

Let me help you put your best word forward. Contact me at

About The dutty is "the ground," the foundation, the earth--just like words are part of the foundation on which I build my life.

Reason for being: To tell stories and help writers and others with a message to put their best word forward.
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