questionswhich is right - an faq or a faq?


Many people believe the grammar rule is that you use "a" when it precedes a word that starts with a consonant and the "an" when it starts with a vowel. That is not correct.

The actual rule is that you use "an" whenever the following word sounds like a vowel. Some examples that are counter-intuitive are:

I just bought a United States Flag.
As an FYI, I'm going to sleep now.
It's going to rain so use an umbrella.
I'll be there in an hour.
Did you ever go on a European trip?


@cengland0: Yep, I know those rules but FAQ starts with a vowel if you say it one way and a consonant if you say it another. =\


@thunderthighs: Here is one opinion, not that it tells you anything you didn't know.

Or you can do what I do when totally stumped by something like this: rewrite the sentence so as not to use either! ;-D


@thunderthighs, @gionot has a good point. You could write the sentence with the word "the" instead.

The FAQ is located here...
Did you read the FAQ
Someone should create FAQ's for this site.


My uncle was stationed in An Faq in Vietnam. That s**t was no joke.


Call it a WootFaq...problem solved. ;-) Unless it isn't for us...then you're back to square one.



FAQ comes from Frequently Asked Questions, and "an Frequently Asked Questions" doesn't work, neither does "a Frequently Asked Questions."

So, although FAQ seems to be an acronym, it isn't used that way, but as a word on it's own. If it's used as a word, you pronounce it, not spell it, so "a FAQ."


@gionot @cengland0: I think you may have the ultimate solution... avoid the problem. Heh.


The FAQ on "a" or "an" states that you use "a" when it precedes a consonant sound and "an" when it precedes a vowel sound. Queen's English also includes "an" before an H, while American English only uses the "an" before a "silent H". (A hoe, but an hour.) Similar exceptions exist for words starting with U. (a union, an umbrella)
So, if you pronounce FAQ as eff-ay-cue, use "an". If you pronounce it "fack" use "a".


Roll for initiative.
Whichever one you use will determine how the acronym is interpreted. Not your problem, the onus is on the reader.

j5 j5

Well, I'm not an expert, but I did chair the editorial advisory board for a magazine for three years (it was a volunteer gig but I worked my butt off!). Personally, I would believe that if the popular consensus on the pronunciation is eff-ay-que, it should be proceeded by "an." Of course, I love what @gionot and @cengland suggested about just re-writing the sentence. That's what I do when I find myself ending a written sentence with a preposition. And as another twist on what @j5 suggested, I would think that the word YOU choose will help determine how the acronym is interpreted. (Just think of the power you have!)


The rule for acronyms that my high school english teacher taught me was to apply it to the expanded version. For example, you determine the application of grammar to "Frequently Asked Questions", not FAQ.


It's "a FAQ" or "an F.A.Q."

You're welcome.


@olperfesser: That's because H is always silent in Britain. "I'd like to buy an 'oe." :)

I've never heard anyone say "fack", I have always heard it said "eff a que" So I write it as "an FAQ".


@moondrake: I guess this isn't the place to admit that I pronounce it Fah-Que.

eta: nowadays, it's more a Frequently Anticipated Questions than Frequently Asked Questions.

j5 j5

Neither are right unless you are talking about a single question. You either need to say "the FAQ" or "a/an FAQ list (page, etc)". If you are writing it and it's proper to use a/an then you should use 'a' but if you are saying it and you pronounce each letter then use 'an'.


@apocello42: Now you're just making it hard again. Sigh.


@thunderthighs: (Somebody has to post this!)

That's what SHE said!


If you just say "F," use "an"; if you say FAQ as a word, use "a." You have to write it the way you'd say it.


@thunderthighs: I say DSL Dee Ess Ell I say scsi scuzzy
I say FAQ Eff A Que so I would use 'an', but most importantly: What I am saying now is I am no help.


Really, really don't care either way. Just publish the updated official FAQs!

Please? And thank you! :-)


@thunderthighs: I just texted my friend who is a magazine editor asking your question. Here is the exchange:

Q: Have a question for you in your area of expertise. Which is correct "a FAQ" or "an FAQ"?

A: An FAQ or A frequently asked question.

That is the most official answer I can get you as to which is grammatically correct. Hope this helps.


@belyndag: @thunderthighs: "Think of the power that you will have!" -- Just remember though, that with great power comes great responsibility.
/shrugs/ Yea, I just had to do it... ;)


@raider9924: Now onto another grammatical conundrum: I think it sounds better to say "text" as the past tense of "text" than to say "texted." Almost like the word "forecast" is used for both present and past tense. When texting first became popular, I used to say "sent a text" to avoid using the word as a verb. Does your editor buddy have any input on this?

"Input"--yet another word that can be either present or past tense. I'm really full of it today!


I was unaware anyone ever pronounced it "fak". But I'm never a big fan of "pronouncing" most acronyms (e.g. people who pronounce SQL as "sequel" drive me nuts). There are obvious exceptions like AWOL though...