I just had a question of mine edited from "...an SSB..." to "...a SSB..." and I'm wondering if we're going to suggest a standard for the site and permit such edits, or leave it up the the person who originally wrote it.

If we are going to suggest and follow a standard, what should it be for SSB? Do we assume people are saying "single side band" when they write "SSB" or do we assume they're spelling out the letters "ess ess bee" when they write "SSB"?


2 Answers 2


That kind of distinction is rather trivial, and shouldn't be the core basis for an edit. (In the particular case you're referring to, it appears to have been a side effect of a larger title edit).

I don't think we need to enforce a standard for articles in front of abbreviations, nor do I think we should permit edits that try to do so. However, edits which happen to change the article while making other valid changes shouldn't be a problem.


I was the one who edited that title, and it wasn't so much a question of grammar as it was about making the title match the body of the question.

That said, back when I learned English in school, the rule was that "an" precedes words beginning with vowels only, and in other cases it is "a". Hence, it is "an image transmission" but "a video transmission" or "a transmission of image data". "A single (sideband frequency)", "a SSB (frequency)" or "a frequency" all sound better to me than using "an", but that was not the focus of my edit. Like Amber, I don't think a minor grammar change should be the sole basis for an edit, but I have no problem at all with edits that are useful in other ways and happen to fix some grammar at the same time.

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    $\begingroup$ Some people get a bit "fast and loose" with the a/an rule around acronyms that start with a vowel sound. For example, "an SSB" sounds OK because you pronounce it "an ess ess bee". $\endgroup$
    – W5VO
    Dec 4, 2013 at 22:46
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    $\begingroup$ Back when I learned English in school, we were told that the a/an rule applies to the way in which the word is pronounced, not how it's written. So if the word is pronounced with a vowel first, then it would have an, as it would be is ess ess bee, ell cee dee, ell eee dee and so on. For example an hour, a unique opportunity and so on. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Dec 6, 2013 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrejaKo Good point, although it doesn't change the fact that the a/an change was a tiny part of the overall edit. It was long enough ago that I learned English in school that I've forgot quite a few of the finer nuances of the rules; these days, I just use the language. ;) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Dec 6, 2013 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Kjörling I completely agree with the claim that a is indeed a minor part of the edit. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Dec 6, 2013 at 17:56

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