How’s your grammar? Try this on for size

English is not an easy language. Rules, rules, rules and to be an effective writer, well you have to know all of the rules.

I see a lot of stories with the use of “a historic” or “a historical” and if you go by the rules that “an” is the correct word to use before vowels, then “a historical” seems correct.

Wrong! Now I won’t begin to explain why it would be “a history lesson” but using “a” before historical is not right. That’s beyond my expertise why it’s “a history” but “an historic.”

My grade school English teachers stressed that in the use of “a” and “an,” an is the appropriate word to use before any word starting with a vowel. Well, almost. “U” is a vowel, on that we can all agree. But if the word beginning with “u” the “u” is pronounced as a long “u” then that rule doesn’t apply. It would be correct to write “a uniform” or “a utility company” because the “u” is long. But if the “u” is short, as in the word “ultimate” or “ultimatum” then the rule is use “an.”

Got it? Rules are made to be broken, so they say, and no where is it more prevalent than in the English language. Sometimes I have to use KPA Treasurer Regina Catlett to help me with a grammar question. Regina taught English for 35 years and becomes a great sounding board when I’m not sure of the rule on certain usage. Maybe she can tell us why you would write “a hotel” but with the word honor you would use “an.”

Wife Teresa works in the Ricoh Document Services Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lexington. The Ricoh Education and Services Management Team prepared a video on “Grammar Success” for Ricoh employees and Teresa thought it would be a great item to pass along in On Second Thought so I’m doing that.

It’s just a little more than six minutes long, so grab a cup of coffee or a soft drink, share the YouTube video with your staff and hopefully, like I, (or is it me?),  you learned something from watching it. It is “I.” I think.


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