Noah. No uh. NOAA. I’m so confused.

“And a NOAA report last year estimated that….”

In English, we have to use “an” instead of “a” if the next word starts with a vowel sound.

But if the next word is an abbreviation, it’s tricky.

  • The abbreviation “NOAA” is pronounced en oh ay ay.

The editor in this example (or the algorithm that edits this publication, or the bot that makes these decisions) clearly assumed that readers seeing “NOAA” would say to themselves, in their heads, as they read this piece, “And a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report last year estimated….”

I don’t think so. I didn’t even know what the NOAA was. I thought it was my neighbor calling her kid home for dinner: “Noaaaaaaah!”

I think we should write the way people think as they’re reading — and what you hear in your head, as you read this sentence, is “en oh ay ay.”

Which means we need “an” in front of it, not “a.”

(Now I’m bracing myself for negative comments from employees of the En Oh Ay Ay.)

5 thoughts on “Noah. No uh. NOAA. I’m so confused.

  1. I say C.I.A. but I don’t say en ay ess ay for NASA.
    The Brits, despite their manifest flaws, have a convention where they drop all caps if the abbreviation is sounded out like a word.
    For example, NASA becomes Nasa. NOAA is Noaa but CIA remains CIA.
    And Anne is right: Everyone knows it’s pronounced Noah.

    Liked by 1 person

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