Grammar Lesson: Mom, I’ve decided to get a MFA!

Posted by @ 2:10 pm on October 27th, 2009

drunkshithimselfChris Higgs’ post schooled me on the proper use of the apostrophe after singular nouns that end in ‘s’ to show possession, so I figured I’d post my own grammar lesson.

From The OWL@Purdue:

Note: The choice of article is actually based upon the phonetic (sound) quality of the first letter in a word, not on the orthographic (written) representation of the letter. If the first letter makes a vowel-type sound, you use “an”; if the first letter would make a consonant-type sound, you use “a.” So, if you consider the rule from a phonetic perspective, there aren’t any exceptions. Since the ‘h’ hasn’t any phonetic representation, no audible sound, in the first exception, the sound that follows the article is a vowel; consequently, ‘an’ is used. In the second exception, the word-initial ‘y’ sound (unicorn) is actually a glide [j] phonetically, which has consonantal properties; consequently, it is treated as a consonant, requiring ‘a’.

Folks, please do not write the article ‘a’ before the acronym ‘MFA.’ If you do that, then I will think you went to a low-ranked MFA program. Not your fault, though; you didn’t know any better. If you’d rather not worry about the a/an thing, you’re perfectly welcome to write out in full that you received a Master of Fine Arts, as I will do when I apply for a job at Half Price Books this Spring once my contract is up at the university.

Or you can just skip over the whole confusing mess and either a) study writing on your own and save yourself lots of money/stress or b) get a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing, thus making all MFAers on the job market collectively shit themselves. Phhhhddddd.