I am using abbreviations for well-known phrases: e.g., "Nash equilibrium" becomes NE and "neural networks" becomes NN. Should I use "an NN" or "a NN"? Does it matter whether a reader "unfolds" the abbreviation or not when reading? That is, I think it is often the case that NE is read "Nash equilibrium", then it seems appropriate to use "a NE".

  • I would assume the abbreviations are read as-is letter by letter and so "an NE" and "an NN". – nnnnnn Nov 1 '19 at 10:26
  • I'd go so far as to suggest that your choice of a or an will push your readers one way or the other; an NE would be read an n e, while a NE would be read a Nash Equlibrium. – High Performance Mark Nov 1 '19 at 11:14
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    There seems to be some debate on the issue: most sources say read it aloud (so if you'd read "en en", use "an NN", and if it's pronounced as a word (e.g. NATO) then go by how the word is pronounced ("a NATO"), but most sources also say that the rule is often not followed. aje.com/arc/editing-tip-indefinite-article-use-abbreviations – Stuart F Nov 1 '19 at 11:19
  • P. S. If the reader "unfolds" the abbreviation then they can change "an" to "a" at the same time. – nnnnnn Nov 1 '19 at 11:29
  • Thanks @StuartF, that's a great link! She gives "miRNA" (short for "microRNA") as an example which is much more complicated than my NE example since there are three common ways to read it. I was wondering whether there is a rule to be followed here, and given her discussion, this doesn't seem to be the case. I have to say that I'm quite baffled by how ambiguous the use of articles is. – Guy Nov 1 '19 at 20:24

The pronunciation depends on the words you Utter but not on the phrases , if your abbreviations are acceptable and understandable.

If you pronounce NE seperately , then it is an N E or or if it is pronounced like a single word NE , It becomes a NE, if it is well established like WHO.

NN can be pronounced only seperately so an NN is the only option.

  • Please do not answer duplicates. Flag them for closure. – tchrist Nov 1 '19 at 15:30
  • @ t christ.I could not know that it was a duplicate.It has just been identified.Thank you for your timely suggestion. – successive suspension Nov 1 '19 at 15:34

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