The sentence in question:

Every list item that is marked with an * is optional.

The word "asterisks" isn't spelled out, so I'm not sure if "an" or "a" is the correct word to put before it.

  • Again and again and again, spelling is immaterial. Only pronunciation counts. If you say star, then an does not apply; if you say asterisk (NB: not the plural as you wrong), then it does. Surely this is a duplicate.
    – tchrist
    Jul 14, 2014 at 18:26
  • Yay, downvotes for asking a question! These sub-pages wonder why their userbase is so low and at the same time maintain extremely hostile attitudes towards newcomers. Good-bye.
    – Joey
    Jul 14, 2014 at 19:32
  • 1
    The downvote-on-a-question “tool-tip” text begins “This question does not show any research effort” — which certainly appears to be the case here, given that indeed no research effort was shown and also because the “a/an matter” is either the #1 or #2 FAQ on the entire site, depending on how things are accounted. As for “sub-pages” or “low userbase”, ELU has >100k answers, ~60k users, ~200k daily visits, and gets ~50 new questions daily. The problem is most new questions here are poor, whether dupes or unresearched HELPME! ones — or both, like yours.
    – tchrist
    Jul 14, 2014 at 20:02
  • Also see english.stackexchange.com/questions/107060/…
    – tchrist
    Jul 14, 2014 at 20:09
  • This is getting into meta a bit much but I am 100% in disagreement with that policy. I don't think there's any harm in asking the same question using different words (I certainly didn't find anything when I searched for the terms used creating this thread). I'd call this unlucky before unresearched. The same question was asked 10 hours before mine and got 10 upvotes despite having dozens of past duplicates (which I can find now that I know the terms to search for... thanks to whoever answered this question).
    – Joey
    Jul 15, 2014 at 3:36

1 Answer 1


The usage should depend on how the symbol would be spelled out.

For example * is an asterisk. It is proper to say this is "an asterisk" so you would say an *.

This is due to the way you would read it out loud.

When reading: Every list item that is marked with an * is optional.
I would say out loud: Every list item that is marked with an asterisk is optional.

Therefore an must be used.


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