I find that in my work emails the words "a" and "an" are used frequently.

For example:

Dear John, There was an issue with the server.

Is there a good alternative to using "an" or "a"?


Thanks to all. I have will work on restructuring my sentences instead of minimizing the usage of an/a. After further reflection the issue is with how my sentences are structured.

  • 3
    It’s not just your work e-mails. A(n), being the indefinite article, is one of the six most common words in the English language as a whole. It’s almost completely impossible to avoid it if you don’t want to sound very strange. As long as it makes sense in the contexts where you use it, there’s nothing wrong or objectionable about using it a lot—it’s only natural. This also means, however, that this question is far too broad to answer. The indefinite article has hundreds of different uses, and there’s no simple, across-the-board way of just avoiding it. Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 17:57
  • 1
    Agreed with Janus. Maybe you if you posted a real email where you feel you've overused a & an we could get a better sense of what's troubling you and maybe suggest some solutions. As it is, the one example sentence you've quoted is perfectly fine and idiomatic. I wonder if perhaps you're coming from a language which lacks articles and so your real concern is not that you're using them too frequently, but incorrectly? Or perhaps you're uncomfortable in general with English's reliance on articles? I know some Russians hate articles in English because they feel they're "useless".
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 17:59
  • Why do you feel you need an "alternative"??
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 18:27

2 Answers 2


There are alternatives, but good alternatives are another matter.

You can reword, as vstrong suggests. (In this case, it's an improvement, assuming you know what the issue was.)

You can find a replacement. There was some issue with the server. There was one issue. There were issues.

But using "a" and "an" often is not a sign of bad writing. Simple English using short, common words is best, when those words fit the bill, as this does. Words like "the," "a," "an," "is," "of," etc., are easy to read, clear, and better than longer words, assuming you can find replacements. Just as in dialog, it's annoying to see "--," he pleaded; "--," she scolded; "--," he pointed out; "--," she temporized -- instead, use "said" almost always, and the reader won't be continually distracted by the flow of near-synonyms.


Make the thing you're talking about ("the server") the subject of the sentence and describe the problem: This morning the server was overloaded. Yesterday the server stopped working. Etc.


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