Writing Wednesdays—A(n) Accident

Whenever you can cut the indefinite article, do it. You can use plurals or abstract nouns to get around them to shorten your sentences. As such, even these tiny words can cause clutter.
If you need "a" or "an," however, use them before each noun except when two or more of them bear a relationship. For instance:
USE: A husband and wife should sit together during a church service.

NOT: A husband and a wife should sit together during a church service.
  1. Use “a” before words that have pronounced consonants as their first letters, before words starting with the “yew” sound, or before abbreviations that are popularly spelled out. Finally, use it before plural nouns only when followed by few or many.
    • Go to a pharmacy to pick up the medication.

    • I learned of the treatment at a university.

    • The school was credentialed by a NY agency.

    • A few other blogs may explain these concepts better.
  2. Use “an” before words beginning with vowels, before words with unpronounced consonants, or before abbreviations that are not popularly spelled out.
    • I received an M.A. at that school.

    • Now that my son is in school earning an education, I can have an hour of peace.
An ability is acquired, while a capacity is not.
  • Christians should grow in their ability to show love for one another.
  • Non-believers, on the other hand, do not have the capacity to please God in their service, according to Romans 3 and other passages.
This preposition can, at times, evidence clutter in your sentence. For instance:
Benjamin Franklin confirmed that George Whitefield preached to crowds that were estimated at about 40,000 in number.
Since “estimated” already carries the idea of approximation, a better sentence eliminates “about.”
Benjamin Franklin confirmed that George Whitefield preached to crowds estimated at 40,000 in number.
SIDEBAR: Speaking of clutter, "in number" is redundant since "40,000" is a number. Therefore, let's trim the sentence again:
Benjamin Franklin confirmed that George Whitefield preached to crowds estimated at 40,000.
The final trim brings us to twelve words, whereas the original sentence had seventeen.
Use it as a vague term when referencing locations when you are unsure.
USE: The mall is about five miles down this road.

NOT: According to MapQuest, the mall is about 5.7 miles down this road.

USE: Children who disobey should be spanked on their bottoms.

NOT: Children who disobey should be spanked about their bottoms.
Abbreviations are, of course, good ways to shorten sentences, and yes, they are okay for you to utilize. You can even eliminate the periods from common abbreviations such as US, NY, AD, or BC.
Speaking of dating abbreviations, keep these things to keep in mind:
  • AD, the Latin term Anno Domini, means "in the year of our Lord," and it's waiting for you to supply the date at the end. Thus, write that Jesus may have been crucified in AD 33 rather than 33 AD.

  • BC means "before Christ," and is properly located after the date. The earth may have been created as early as 4,000 BC, but probably not after 8,000 BC.

  • BCE and ACE are popular secular dating terms meaning "Before Common Era" and "After Common Era." AD and BC are still fine terms, and there is no need for Christians to feel they have to discontinue utilizing them.

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