Tag Archives: usage

This is Turning into an Hassle


I don’t know where this came from or why it seems to be proliferating, but please take a look at this Google News search for “an historic.” As I write this, this search returns 3,144 results for this exact phrase.

Meanwhile, people are also writing an heroic, an hearing, and even an humiliating.

I know this isn’t any of you, but if you know someone who’s doing this, beg him or her to stop!

The rule you learned whenever you learned it still applies. Use an in front of most words beginning with a vowel sound, such as honor, apple, and irritating. Use a in front of everything else. Here in the United States, we pronounce the /h/ sound in front of words like historic, humiliating, and heroic, so those words take a.

Now please do what you can to reverse the tide of this, an ‘orrible practice if e’er I ‘eard one!

Usage Tuesday: That Pad of Paper is Just Sitting There, Motionless

stationeryWhich one of these sentences is incorrect?

  1. She likes to ride her stationary bike for exercise every morning.
  2. I have a locked drawer in my desk where I like to keep my fancy stationary.

If you are talking about the condition of being immobile, you are talking about being stationary, the adjective. If you are talking about paper, note cards, and writing implements, you are talking about stationery, the noun. This means that sentence #2 is incorrect. Notice the difference in spelling, please. That difference is actually your key to remembering which is which.

A long time ago (and not too long ago if you’ve lived in Hilo, Hawaii), you’d get your letter-writing supplies at a STATIONER. Notice how that doesn’t work if you wanted to spell it STATIONAR. See? You’d get STATIONERY at the STATIONER.

Now that you know this, you will never have a problem keeping them straight!