Once again it’s time for a historic Quiz Bowl. Okay, maybe historic is a bit much, but I’m trying to make a point here. The point has to do with the subject of this month’s AMA Manual of Style quiz—articles. Is it a historic or an historic Quiz Bowl? Did you guess a historic? If so, you’re right. The article a is used before the aspirate h (eg, a historic occasion) and nonvocalic y (eg, a ubiquitous organism) (§11.9, Articles, p 412 in print).
Try another example from this month’s quiz.
The physician told that patient that he should have a/an ultrasound examination performed.
Here’s a hint. Sometimes it helps to read the sentence aloud.
The answer is as follows (use your mouse to highlight the text box):
The physician told that patient that he should have an ultrasound examination performed.
Words beginning with vowels are preceded by a or an according to the sound following (in this case, the u sound) (§11.9, Articles, p 412 in print).
Sound plays an important role in determining whether to use a or an. Test your skills by taking the full Articles Quiz on the AMA Manual of Style online. It will be a (or is that an?) unique experience.—Laura King, MA, ELS