Is it not necessary to use the indefinite article an before e-mail in the following sentence?

" ... Six months later you find a name and e-mail address on a card or an old piece of paper."

It's clear why a second on has been left out before an old piece of paper, but since a/an are used in different ways, I can't understand why it has been omitted there.

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    Interestingly, the writer didn't omit an in on a card or an old piece of paper. It'd be absolutely fine for me. Dec 20, 2016 at 8:18
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    @Damkerng T: Repeating the article, "... a card or an old piece of paper" subtly reinforces the idea that one will have to search through a variety of old scraps when looking for something that was scribbled down.
    – TimR
    Dec 20, 2016 at 13:53
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    @TRomano: That's a really interesting point! But do you have any idea why the first "an" has been omitted? Is it "just a style issue", according to Teacher KSHuang?
    – M.N
    Dec 20, 2016 at 14:51
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    Because "a name and email address" is understood to be a "contact info unit", as it were, they are "of a piece". Cf. "Can you send me the name and address?".
    – TimR
    Dec 20, 2016 at 16:15
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    @ TRomano: Thanks a world! It's a really useful tip.
    – M.N
    Dec 22, 2016 at 5:46

1 Answer 1


Sorry, I would have liked to leave this as a comment instead, but my rep isn't high enough yet.

Personally, I think it's just a style issue. No actual grammar rules have been broken. Having "an" would make things more clear, but they are not unclear without the "an."

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a grammar page regarding this issue exactly, but if it helps, you're not alone in asking questions about dropping indefinite articles:


And I totally agree with Damkerng's comment in the original post. I had found it interesting as well that the original speaker of the sentence had omitted the article in the first part and not the second.

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