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Say we have an acronym or abbreviation like SSH (Secure Shell). What is the correct form of the following phrase?
1) An SSH console
2) A SSH console

I tend to use the first because it "sounds" right. However, a reader of the phrase could expand the abbreviation and read "an secure shell" which obviously sounds wrong! Is there a definite rule for this or the choice is made based on the sound of the phrase?

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    Both are acceptable. Check this out: goo.gl/U2bty8. I personally read A SSH console "a secure shell console". (Yet, sometimes I read SSH as "es-es-aytch".) Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 10:45

2 Answers 2

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'en' MBBS doctor is how we pronounce.

So, it's...

An SSH console

The rule remains the same (whether it is an acronym, a full word or even a spelled number) that if a word is 'sounding like vowel', it'll take an indefinite article 'an' (as in 'an hour').

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According to:

An acronym is an abbreviation you can pronounce as an actual word. Initialisms are abbreviations that you pronounce as a string of letters. Whether it's an abreviation or initialism is an unnecessary distinction for application of the rule, but it affects the phonetization.

The use of "a" versus "an" with an abreviation or initialism is determined by two things:

  1. Is the abbreviation pronounced letter by letter or as a word

  2. Is the first sound a vowel or a consonant - silent letters aren't considered

Examples:

  • a FASB rule - A Financial Accounting Standards Board rule.
  • a LAN schematic - A local area network.
  • a MOMA exhibit - A Museum of Modern Art exhibit.
  • a NICU nurse - A neonatal intensive care unit nurse.
  • a SAM base - A surface-to-air missile base.

  • an FOB airfield - A forward operating base airfield.

  • an LAPD memo - A Los Angeles Police Department memo.
  • an MRI test - A magnetic resonance imaging test.
  • an NPO order - A nothing by mouth (Latin: nil per os) order.
  • an SAT exam - A Scholastic Assessment Test exam.

See also: The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

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