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Do you use “a” or “an” before acronyms?

I am writing about Random Variables, which I am abbreviating to RV. Should I write 'an RV' (an Arr-Vee) or 'a RV' (a Random Variable)?


This depends entirely on how you expect people to read the letters RV. If you expect them to say "random variable" every time, then use a RV. If you expect that they'll pronounce the letter names, use an RV. Personally, I would lean towards the latter.

That's because the choice of a or an is determined entirely by pronunciation.

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When someone reads "RV" aloud, they will say "Arr-Vee", not "random variable"; so 'an' is correct.

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"An RV". It's whether it would be pronounced with a vowel sound that controls, and what you would actually say rather than the expansion.

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"That there's an RV, Clark." - Cousin Eddie, Christmas Vacation

I think cousin Eddie got it right, as did @JSBangs.

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  • Cousin Eddie is amazing, driving and inhabiting a random variable! – JYelton Apr 5 '11 at 16:32

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