Mobile menu

Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Use of a or an before acronyms
Thread poster: patyjs

patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 20:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 1, 2007

Does anyone know the correct article to use before an acronym?
When the first letter of the acronym is pronounced beginning with a vowel sound it's is natural when speaking to use "an". But is it correct in written English? Take, for example, FOB, Fecal Occult Blood.
Should I use "an FOB test" or "a FOB test"?

I have seen both used and my definite preference is for the first, but does anyone know for sure?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:50
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
'an' before a vowel - pronounciation counts Jul 1, 2007

You are right in thinking it should be "an FOB".

The decisive criteria for the use of 'an' rather than 'a' is pronounciation, not spelling. And in terms of pronounciation 'FOB' does indead begin with a vowel (eff-oh-bee).

An opposite example, by the way, is 'university'. Although, the word begins with the vowel 'u', the first letter of the word is not pronounced as a vowel (it's 'ju:niversity'), so it's 'a university', not 'an university'.



[Edited at 2007-07-01 16:43]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 22:50
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Unless pronounced as a word. Jul 1, 2007

An exception would be an acronym that is commonly pronounced as a word. For instance, most people refer to those tests that high school Juniors and Seniors in the U.S. take as "S-A-T", that is, "Ess Ay Tee," so you would write "An SAT score that was barely acceptable."

However, more and more, I am hearing SAT pronounced like the word "sat." In that case, you would have to write "a SAT score."

In the example you give, I don't know for sure, but I think health-care professionals say "Eff Oh Bee," not "Fob," so use "an," as Thomas says.

[Edited at 2007-07-01 19:11]

[Edited at 2007-07-01 19:12]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
agree with Jane Jul 1, 2007

JaneTranslates wrote:

An exception would be an acronym that is commonly pronounced as a word. For instance, most people refer to those tests that high school Juniors and Seniors in the U.S. take as "S-A-T", that is, "Ess Ay Tee," so you would write "An SAT score that was barely acceptable."

However, more and more, I am hearing SAT pronounced like the word "sat." In that case, you would have to write "a SAT score."

In the example you give, I don't know for sure, but I think health-care professionals say "Eff Oh Bee," not "Fob," so use "an," as Thomas says.

[Edited at 2007-07-01 19:11]

[Edited at 2007-07-01 19:12]


Most acronymns in EN in fact ARE pronounced as words, and I cannot imagine doctors referring to an EFF-OH-BEE rather than a FOB

So it's very likely to be "a FOB" and not "an EFF-OH-BEE"


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:50
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree with Lia Jul 1, 2007

I also think it is "a FOB".

Direct link Reply with quote
 

patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 20:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
not convinced.... Jul 2, 2007

It certainly sounds feasible when the acronym is pronounced as a word to use the corresponding article, but many acronyms are consonant only and don't lend themselves to this.

Perhaps we should look at it the other way round: if it's written with an, an FOB test, then the reader would have to pronounce the individual letters, whereas written with a, a FOB test, the word would have to be pronounced. The onus, therefore, lies with the writer to decide which way he/she wants it to sound.

It doesn't sound like there are any hard and fast rules, though.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Rebecca Hendry  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:50
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A UK GP says.... Jul 2, 2007

I just checked with my father, a GP here in Scotland, and he says that they usually refer to FOBs as "EF-OH-BEEs". When I asked him if an article would be used and, if so, which one, he said:

"We would say "the patient was asked to submit specimens for FOBs", or "FOBs were negative". You might say "FOB negative", but it generally implies that more than one test was done - a single negative FOB test is not sufficient to be regarded as conclusive, and stool samples collected on three separate occasions are recommended. In ordinary (spoken) practice, everyone would use eff oh bees. I think if I were writing up a summary of an admission, I'd put the results of investigation in note-form thus: "...FBC was abnormal, with HB 9.0 and an iron deficiency pattern. FOBs x 3 were negative..." In documenting investigations ordered on admission, you'd write: "FBC, U&Es, LFTs, CXR, FOBx3...""


Direct link Reply with quote
 
lingomania
Local time: 12:50
Italian to English
It depends Jul 3, 2007

It depends on how the person pronounces it....I tend to agree with patyjs above though.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:50
German to English
+ ...
Do you guys know what an acronym is?? Jul 8, 2007

By definition, an acronym is pronounceable and pronounced as a word. So “NATO” is an acronym, but, say, “FRCGP” is not. Even though it is possible to pronounce it as a word if you put your mind to it, nobody does. I am not so sure about “laser” (from “Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation”) though. It started life as an acronym, but it is always written in lower case these days, and only people old enough to remember the 1960s are aware of its origin.

That said, the sole criterion for choosing between “a” and “an” is euphony. So how you pronounce the sequence of letters is the important factor. (Sorry to repeat the obvious.)


Direct link Reply with quote
 
lingomania
Local time: 12:50
Italian to English
Right Jul 9, 2007

Richard Benham wrote:

By definition, an acronym is pronounceable and pronounced as a word. So “NATO” is an acronym, but, say, “FRCGP” is not. Even though it is possible to pronounce it as a word if you put your mind to it, nobody does. I am not so sure about “laser” (from “Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation”) though. It started life as an acronym, but it is always written in lower case these days, and only people old enough to remember the 1960s are aware of its origin.

That said, the sole criterion for choosing between “a” and “an” is euphony. So how you pronounce the sequence of letters is the important factor. (Sorry to repeat the obvious.)


Very well explained Richard. Thank you.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 20:50
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
an Jul 13, 2007

So, let's talk about oil

What about OPEC? That would be "an OPEC summit".

A FOB...
An OPEC ...

True or false?


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxE2efour
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:50
Swedish to English
MRSA Jul 25, 2007

A good example I heard the other day was from the American TV soap House, when a doctor referred to MRSA as "mersa" (e.g. a MRSA infection).
Living in the UK, I have only ever heard it pronounced letter by letter MRSA (how doctors pronounce it I have no idea, but this is not of much importance, unless one is trying to translate as close as possible to medical jargon).


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxLifesnadir
English
Medical Acronyms Jul 27, 2007

Here are some common medical acronyms and how they are spoken (usually by letters only):


CBC (Cee Bee Cee): Complete Blood Count
Spoken as single letters, C-B-C.
"Order a CBC & diff (differential)." "Diff" is spoken as a single word, NOT as letters.
"a" is before CBC, and no article before "diff." No doctor in the USA would say "D-I-F-F" because diff is just an abbreviation rather than an acronym.



TSH (Tee sss H): Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
Spoken as single letters T-S-H
"Order a TSH, CBC and diff."
"a" is before the first test in a spoken series of tests
Physicians and nurses in the USA only put an article (a, an, the) before the first acronym in the series, both written an verbal.



B/P : Blood Pressure (reading)
Spoken as single letters B-P
"Get a B/P on Mrs. Johnson," Dr Cadall ordered.
"a" before
Written versions by doctors and nurses- most often no article is used before B/P in charting or notes.


STAT = Statim (Latin: meaning "Immediately" in medical jargon)
Spoken as a word "STAT" not as single letters.
"Get a STAT EKG, EEG, and blood gases on Mr. Jordan."
"Move her to ICU -- STAT!"
Most often in the written versions, STAT would have no article before it. But, it could be written as "a STAT" such as "Get a STAT glucose on him."



On some long acronyms, medical professions in the USA will pronounce them as words. This is mostly started by younger residents and interns, rather than by doctors with many years in the profession.


If you want definitions of acronyms, Google the letters+acronyms, such as
STAT+acronym and you will find lists of definitions.


Some acronyms have more than one definition. As a semi-humorous example, more women than men suffer from ED, but men can also have problems with ED. For women, most likely what is meant is "eating disorders" but men suffer with "erectile dysfunction." Because of potential confusion, like this example could create, always spell out the words the first time they are used and put the acronym in parantheses.


"More women than men suffer from eating disorders (ED), but men suffer with "erectile dysfunction (ED), not to confuse the two."


Here's one for you to ponder: The acronym is SSDC, which stands for Sudden and Severe Disabling Crisis. Does it need "a" or "an" before it?


Lifes


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Yasmin
Local time: 04:50
German to English
+ ...
Initialisms are not always acronyms Jul 28, 2007

Lifesnadir wrote:

Here's one for you to ponder: The acronym is SSDC, which stands for Sudden and Severe Disabling Crisis. Does it need "a" or "an" before it?

Lifes




I might be splitting hairs here, but surely SSDC is an initialism and not an acronym as it is an abbreviation that is not pronounceable as a word. Thus, in answer to your question, I would say "an" SSDC (es-es-dee-cee).

What happened to the use of the good old full stop in abbreviations? A peppering of those used to sort the initialisms from the acronyms!


Direct link Reply with quote
 
CHOMAT
Local time: 04:50
English to French
+ ...
laser Dec 1, 2007

Richard Benham wrote:

By definition, an acronym is pronounceable and pronounced as a word. So “NATO” is an acronym, but, say, “FRCGP” is not. Even though it is possible to pronounce it as a word if you put your mind to it, nobody does. I am not so sure about “laser” (from “Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation”) though. It started life as an acronym, but it is always written in lower case these days, and only people old enough to remember the 1960s are aware of its origin.

That said, the sole criterion for choosing between “a” and “an” is euphony. So how you pronounce the sequence of letters is the important factor. (Sorry to repeat the obvious.)


So does radar, which is older than laser.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Use of a or an before acronyms

Advanced search






SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2017 helps translators increase translation productivity whilst ensuring quality. Combining translation memory, terminology management and machine translation in one simple and easy-to-use environment.

More info »
Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs