In the discussion below, common sense tells us that "What is an XML" is correct, and that "What is a XML" is not. Someone else in my office is insisting that common sense is wrong, and that the old "schoolhouse rule" still applies.

Can anyone point me to a source which will clarify this? Apparently, the opinions of an English Forum are not enough to convince anyone.

Thanks -


Acronyms and the use of 'a' vs. 'an'

Working in the technology industry, I end up using a lot of acronyms. The old schoolhouse rules of "'a' before a constanant except specific exceptions" doesn't seem to sound right in some cases.

For instance, "What is a XML?" vs. "What is an XML?". It seems that "What is a PSP?" is correct, but "What is a FPU?" seems awkward.

Is there a diffinitive rule for these kinds of scenarios?


This is an anonymous account, please login if you wish to post replies.

See also: Consonants, Vowels

03-06-2005, 9:38 AM Post :105195

nona the brit

Posts 1,503

Senior Member

Joined on 22-09-2004


Re: Acronyms and the use of 'a' vs. 'an'

Yes it is a before a consonant or an before a vowel - but the rule is appled to a consonant sound or vowel sound.

If you think about XML, even though it starts with a consonant, it actually starts with the sound of e( ex), a vowel, so use 'an.

Again, looking at FPU, you can hear that it starts with 'ef', an e sound, so it uses an.

You have been following the correct rule all along subconsciously. Your instincts are correct.


The name says it all.

Please visit [url=http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/a.html ]here[/url]

Hi Paco,

That has to be the perfect link - thank you for your input.

Sincerely - B.