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Would it be "a (incorrect) report" or "an (incorrect) report?"

marked as duplicate by sumelic, tchrist Jan 28 at 4:59

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  • The choice between "a" and "an" is not strictly grammar. – Hot Licks Jan 28 at 3:17
  • As I understand it, it's a matter of how you pronounce the phrase. If you pronounce it as report or ncorrect report, then it's a (incorrect) report. If you pronounce it as incorrect report all proper-like, then it's an (incorrect) report. – Ed Grimm Jan 28 at 3:43
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Strictly speaking, it should be neither version of your sentence. The following answer also applies to every use of parentheses in a sentence, not just your specific use case.

From The Punctuation Guide:

Parentheses (always used in pairs) allow a writer to provide additional information. The parenthetical material might be a single word, a fragment, or multiple complete sentences.

Whatever the material inside the parentheses, it must not be grammatically integral to the surrounding sentence. If it is, the sentence must be recast. This is an easy mistake to avoid. Simply read your sentence without the parenthetical content. If it makes sense, the parentheses are acceptable; if it doesn’t, the punctuation must be altered.

      Correct: The president (and his assistant) traveled by private jet.

      Incorrect: The president (and his assistant) were expected to arrive by 10:00 a.m.

In the above example, the determination is made by writing the sentence without the parenthetical information:

✔ The president traveled by private jet.
✘ The president were expected to arrive by 10:00 a.m.


The same is said by The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.), 6.95 (emphasis mine):

Parentheses—stronger than a comma and similar to the dash—are used to set off material from the surrounding text. Like dashes but unlike commas, parentheses can set off text that has no grammatical relationship to the rest of the sentence.


From the Government of Canada's TERMIUM Plus:

Parentheses should not alter the flow of the sentence in which they are inserted; the rest of the sentence should make sense if the parenthetic element is removed. The following is incorrect:

She had to forfeit her acting appointment (not to mention her bilingualism bonus) and she got no sympathy on either count.

In the above example, the determination is made by writing the sentence without the parenthetical information:

✘ She had to forfeit her acting appointment and she got no sympathy on either count.


From Oxford Dictionaries (emphasis mine):

Round brackets (also called parentheses, especially in American English) are mainly used to separate off information that isn’t essential to the meaning of the rest of the sentence. If you removed the bracketed material the sentence would still make perfectly good sense.


Now let's look at your sentence without the parenthetical information:

✔ a report
✘ an report

However, it's not as simple as that. If remove the parentheses but leave the word they enclose—as you would actually read the sentence—you get this:

✘ a incorrect report
✔ an incorrect report

This leaves us with one version being grammatical but sounding completely wrong and another version that sounds okay but is actually ungrammatical.


In this case, as per quote from The Punctuation Guide, "the sentence must be recast."

You could use something like one of these variations:

a (mostly incorrect) report
a (mistaken) report
a report (that is incorrect)

That is, assuming you want to use parentheses at all. In this particular example, without any further context or explanation, there doesn't seem to be a good reason for them in the first place.

  • Someone apparently flagged this post for "length and content"—I just wonder how much longer it needs to be or how much more content it needs to have. – Robusto Jan 28 at 20:39
  • @Robusto I must have been rushing out the door when I wrote it. I apologize for being so terse. I'll try to write more next time. ;) – Jason Bassford Jan 28 at 20:43

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