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When do I use “the” vs. “a/an” articles?

By Alexandra Sharp

The top two rules for correct article usage


A person writing in a notebook.When writing content for your company, you want to make sure all nine parts of speech are correct. The nine parts of speech are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. Grammar errors as simple as using the wrong part of speech in a sentence make your company look unprofessional. Show you care about the content you publish by making sure even the smallest, most seemingly inconsequential parts of speech are used correctly. If your company’s writing is not of high-quality and prioritized, then buyers will infer the quality of your products and services is not a priority either.


Speaking of, what part of speech is commonly written incorrectly in public relations writing? Articles. Know the difference between “a,” “an,” and “the” with these two simple rules.



     1. “The” is for specifics.


If you are referring to a particular company, place, or person, you’ll want to use “the.” However, if you are writing about a theoretical company, place, or person, “a” or “an” should be used. For example: A PR professional should use proper grammar. The PR professionals at Axia Public Relations have copy editors on staff to address that issue.


     2. Articles are based on sounds, not letters.


Many people think “a” goes before consonant letters and “an” goes before vowel letters. However, that’s not the case! It all depends on the sound the letter makes, not the letter itself. So in most cases, “a” goes before consonant letters and “an” goes before vowel letters. And there are incidents when that isn’t true. 


For example, you would write “an hour” even though “h” is a consonant letter because the word’s first sound is a vowel sound (-ow). Another example is certain abbreviations like “MA” for masters degree. You should write “an MA degree” because the word’s first sound is a vowel sound (-em).


Still a little confused about article usage? At Axia, we have three copy editors for our agency and our clients, a unique feature of our PR firm that ensures your company’s published content uses articles correctly. If you want to learn more about how we can help you build your storytelling arsenal, contact us at 888-PR-FIRM-8 or download our How to Fire Your PR Agency e-book.


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Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash

Topics: PR tips, copy editing

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