Category Archives: Writing

The dilemma of writing ‘a’ or ‘an’ before a consonant or vowel

This is always one of those situations you just don’t think about when you’re speaking, but when you’re writing, you wonder, ‘It looks right, but is it? That’s not how you say it!’

We all know the general rule is to apply ‘an’ before a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) and ‘a’ before a consonant. You think that would be the rule in writing, too, and it is, until you write a sentence like:

‘It takes about an hour to get to Liverpool from Stoke-on-Trent.’

Then you scratch your head and say to yourself, hang on, the letter ‘H’ in English is a consonant. You might say ‘an hour’ but surely ‘a hour’ is right?

Unfortunately, for consonants like ‘H’, that’s where the rule is chucked out of the window with the contempt the English language can sometimes dish up.

Read this sentence aloud:

‘It takes about a hour to get to Liverpool from Stoke-on-Trent.’

That might look right technically, but it sounds daft, doesn’t it? In this context, the ‘H’ is silent, even though the general rule is to use ‘a’ as in: ‘a house’*; ‘a horse’*; ‘a hospital’*. We can hear the ‘H’ when we say those words, so we know they’re consonants. We say ‘hour’ like it doesn’t begin with ‘H’, like it begins with its second letter ‘O’, and so we have to treat it like it’s a vowel.

And then there’s the letter ‘M’!

‘An MRI scan.’

Not ‘A MRI scan’? Why not? Because when we get to ‘M’ as we chant the alphabet, we actually say ‘EM’ like it begins with the vowel ‘E’, therefore ‘an’ in this context would be correct. In fact, using ‘an’ would be almost always correct where it would precede an abbreviated word in speech starting with a consonant: ‘They sent an ROV into the sea’.

Vowel word examples where the general rule is broken usually begin with ‘U’ and ‘O’:

A uniform (where ‘U’ sounds like ‘Y’ as in ‘yew’)

A one-way ticket (where ‘O’ sounds like ‘W’ as in ‘window’)

So it’s all to do with sound: if a word sounds like it starts with a vowel when you say it, then treat it like a vowel and use ‘an’; if a word sounds like it starts with a consonant, then use ‘a’.

It’s that simple, really.

*Unless like me you’re a Scouser, when you’d actually say, ‘an ‘orse’, ‘an ‘ouse’ or ‘an ‘ospital’!


The curious case of the man who corrects grammar mistakes in the night: the Apostrophiser!

Here’s a tale that will warm the hearts of writers everywhere, and it’s a true story!

In Bristol in the UK, there’s a man who goes round at night correcting the dreaded apostrophe mistakes made on shop signs in the city. He has made a tool for this purpose, called the ‘apostrophiser’, a very large pole that either places an apostrophe after the ‘s’ where it should be and can take out the ‘s’ where it shouldn’t be.

This guy has been dubbed the ‘Banksy of Punctuation’ and has been doing this incognito for thirteen years! Only his family knows who he is. Does he have too much time on his hands? Maybe, but I know it drives me mad to see apostrophes in the wrong place, nor would I stay in a hotel or B&B where I see ‘accommodation’ with one ‘m’ on the door, so good on him, I say! 👍

What’s the irony of this story? There’s no such word as ‘apostrophiser’! 😂

Full story in The Guardian.

To all authors, writers, artists, photographers, crafters…

In 2017, may your books sell well, your stories are well received, your paintings are enjoyed, your photographs tell the stories you want to tell, and the things you make don’t fall apart. In short…

Happy New Year


Good luck to all authors taking part in NaNoWriMo this month!

Guess who won’t be taking part yet again this year, but I’ll be thinking of you! 👍😉

(I can’t believe it’s November already!)

OK, Holiday Over: Back to the Grind!

I did it again: I went away on holiday for two weeks without writing a word of my book! My laptop stayed at home (I needed space in my case for all the tacky souvenirs!), but I did take a writing pad to scribble something of chapter 15; I didn’t, though! Now I’m back and I have to motivate myself into starting where I left off. That’s not easy when you have to go back to your day job, you have the holiday washing to do and the house to clean from top to bottom.

It’s a case of, ‘Oh, I’ll start tomorrow.’ Tomorrow never comes, though, does it?

One way of getting back into my writing is doing a mini edit. Although I haven’t finished Episode, I get to a point where I find it useful to look over what I’ve already written and this often motivates me to carry on and finish the book. I will finish it and get it published in 2017, though, and that will take me to ten years since I finished Goalden Girl!

Planning and Writing Your Fiction Book: Some Do’s and Don’ts


  • A rough plan: plot, characters, genre, age of the reader (adult, teen, children, young children)
  • Research press release sites, free if possible, to get the news of your new book out there
  • Carry a notebook and pen with you and write down your ideas when they pop in your head before you forget them
  • Write in a quiet environment if you can; if you can’t, have some music on in the background, preferably instrumental and not too loud
  • Write something every day, even if you don’t feel motivated. A few lines is better than nothing at all. Some days you’ll find you’ll write more than others
  • Take a break when you feel you need one. You don’t want to end up thinking it’s a chore
  • Have an internet presence: website, blog, Twitter, Facebook page, Instagram, whatever. A potential reader will find you there, but stay off the internet while writing! Do whatever promotion, networking, research, blogging you need to do when you take a break, then when you go back to your book close the browser
  • Edit, edit, edit, but shop around for editors and proof readers who can help you polish your book
  • Send your book to a literary agent or publisher supporting your genre if you want to go down the traditional publishing route
  • Approach bookshops to ask about book signings, if you have the balls! You might also be able to get an interview with a local newspaper if your story has a local interest slant


  • Tell yourself you’ll do some writing tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes!
  • Write with the telly on! It’s distracting and if your favourite programme is on you’ll miss most of it
  • Do the housework unless you need a break. Yeah, you might need to polish the bookcase, but unless the dust is feet deep leave it for another time
  • Give up or doubt yourself or your book. Shit happens, life gets in the way and your book may not be progressing as quickly as you want it to, but you will finish it eventually. Unless you die first, in which case you won’t be bothered
  • Worry about rejection letters if you send your masterpiece to a publisher. It’s their loss; send it to someone else. Send it out to more than one publisher
  • Dismiss self-publishing or POD. Check out Lulu, Createspace, Blurb, Completely Novel etc. It doesn’t mean your book is of a lower standard because it’s self-published
  • Just think about your book in print, think about it in eBook format, too. Most readers have a Kindle or Nook and Kobo these days; you can also download eBooks from iTunes and Google Books. Bear in mind, though, that if you want to promote your Kindle edition, Amazon get shirty if your eBook is available elsewhere
  • Dismiss online promotion. There are some cracking sites, many free, happy to spread the word, Readers Gazette being an excellent example. Many of these sites offer author interviews, too
  • Pay for reviews or promotion unless you can absolutely avoid it. Independent Author Index, Independent Author Network, Readers Views and Readers Favorite are among some of the popular ones used by indies that are inexpensive
  • Think that when your book is finally finished that’s the end of that, you have to promote it and get as many readers as you can interested in it. That’s where the promo and review sites and possible book signings and interviews come in

Time To Get Back on My Horse, Then, I Suppose

Now where was I with Episode, my sequel to Epiworld? Oh aye, chapter 7, pathetic when you consider I started writing the stupid thing a year ago! Should be plain sailing from here now, though (I just hope I’m not speaking too soon!) I’m up to the part where Alice and Travis have been thrown through a time portal back to Ancient Greece and have landed on the feast table where King Menelaus and his brother King Agamemnon are celebrating his forthcoming marriage to Princess Helen. Alice and Travis are thrown in the dungeons and Helen makes the guard free them, but Travis discovers that he’s too late to save her from a marriage she doesn’t want: she’s already Menelaus’ wife.

For anyone who knows anything about Greek literature, I’m using the story of The Iliad as a backdrop for the book, and Helen is integral to the plot, though as yet I’m not sure how. I have to kick-start my motivation, don’t I, and have some idea where I’m going with the book. That’s not going to be easy and I return to my day job on Monday as well. Can’t wait. Not.

I can’t say I’ll start tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes, so when will I start again?

No time like the present!

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