The article for SEO is 'an' ie. 'an SEO' but Search Engine Optimizer ( Abbreviation of SEO ) is called as 'a Search Engine Optimizer'. Why do these variations?

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    As an aside, Search Engine Optimizer is not an abbreviation of SEO. SEO is an acronym. An acronym is where you take the first letter of each or some of the words, and an abbreviation is where you shorten a word (e.g. Mr. for Mister). It is also the other way around - SEO is an acronym of Search Engine Optimizer - Search Engine Optimzer is not an acronym of SEO. Also, SEO is usually taken to be an acronym of Search Engine Optimization (the field, rather than the person doing it).
    – JBentley
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 13:02
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    @JBentley Actually, SEO isn't an acronym: it's only an acronym if you pronounce it as a word, rather than a series of letters. If you pronounce the single letters then it's an abbreviation. So, for example, NSA is an abbreviation (because you pronounce it "n-s-a") while NASA is an acronym (because you pronounce it "na-sa", rather than "n-a-s-a"). Either way, of course, "Search Engine Optimizer" isn't an abbreviation of SEO, it's the other way round. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 13:45
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    As far as I know SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, not Optimiser. It's an activity or an area of expertise, not term I would use to refer to a tool or a person. A person might be an 'SEO consultant', 'SEO expert' etc.
    – bdsl
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 15:54
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    When I was in school I was graded down for writing "an ROTC scholarship" instead of "a ROTC scholarship". I did a lot of research to try to support my wording of it, and the research I did only showed that there is no firm consensus on this question. Some people think "a" or "an" should always match the pronounciation of the first word, others think it should match the pronounciation of the first letter of the abbreviation. Of course, some abbreviations (like SQL or ROTC) can be either spelled or pronounced like acronyms, so it gets even messier. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 16:50
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    Maulik's answer is correct -- it comes down to how the word is pronounced, not how the word is spelled. Thus, to write 'a/an' in English, you must be able to pronounce English. Merriam Webster did a great video on this issue: youtube.com/watch?v=NP8bWU6zIos (not enough rep to comment, but felt this video is very useful)
    – Greggo
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 2:59

1 Answer 1


Because when you pronounce 'SEO', it starts with the vowel 'es' (listen to it), in Hindi- 'ए' (सीओ). The rule of articles apply the way we 'pronounce' the word.

When you write it the full term - Search engine optimizer, you pronounce each word differently so it is 'a search engine optimizer' (अ सर्च एंजिन ओप्टिमाईज़र)

Even further, if you pronounce SEO and have a noun following it, you still use 'an' - I know Tim who is 'an SEO expert'.

So, to conclude...

You certainly require an SEO
A search engine optimizer helps us bring our site up on SERPs
Tim is an SEO expert

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    Excellent explanation with examples :) +1 for our 'ए' ;-) Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 7:14
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    I don't understand the relevance of Hindi here. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 10:01
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    No relevance. I just typed in Hindi so that he understands it better by identifying the 'pronunciation' of the word @LightnessRacesinOrbit
    – Maulik V
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 10:04
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    By the same rule, if you have an initialism that is sometimes pronounced spelt-out and sometimes as a word, you could have either form, so "A SQL database" and "An SQL database", for example are both correct approaches to the two different pronunciations of SQL.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 10:12
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    @MaxWilliams Except when you pronounce "SQL" as "sequel".
    – Residuum
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 14:00

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