I was recently writing about a concept in computer science called a 'perceptron', otherwise known as an 'artificial neuron'. I asked the following question:

Where does the so-called 'loss' / 'loss function' fit into the idea of a perceptron / artificial neuron (as presented in the figure)?

The part of interest is

a perceptron / artificial neuron

"a perceptron" is valid grammar, but "a artificial neuron" would be invalid (it should be an artificial neuron). Is it still correct/valid English to write "a perceptron / artificial neuron" when using the forward slash punctuation mark? If not, then how should it be worded?

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    Change the “/“ symbol to the word “or” to test for acceptability. I find it acceptable in your example, and you will find instances of that form in the literature. But if this is unacceptable to your reviewers, you can expand it to “a perceptron or an artificial neutron”.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 14, 2021 at 1:23
  • @Lawrence Thanks for the comment. So "a perceptron or artificial neuron" would be acceptable? It seems to me that "a perceptron or artificial neuron" carries over the "a" to "artificial neuron", so that we get "a perceptron or a artificial neuron" as the expanded form, no? It seems to me that, as you said, "a perceptron or an artificial neuron" would be the most logical formulation. Jun 14, 2021 at 1:34
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    @ThePointer The forward slash stands in for or Jun 14, 2021 at 2:57
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    There's no parallelism required when a/an is followed by a phrase. All that matters is whether the word is immediately followed by a consonant or vowel sound.
    – Barmar
    Jun 15, 2021 at 5:32
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    You use "a" because the next word starts with the consonant "p". The word "artificial" is irrelevant because it's not after "a". You don't have to make the article agree with both words (how could you?).
    – Barmar
    Jun 15, 2021 at 5:36

1 Answer 1


Using a/an only changes with the word that follows it, not subsequent ones. "A perceptron/an artificial neuron" would also be correct. It works about the same with "or" - "a perceptron or artificial neuron", "a perceptron or an artificial neuron".

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