When editing, we encounter this fairly frequently. The question is: do nouns beginning with ‘h’ take the indefinite article a or an?

Fortunately, the answer is easy – it depends how the word beginning with ‘h’ sounds – that is, whether the ‘h’ is pronounced or not. For example, in ‘a hot dog’ the h is pronounced, but in ‘an hour’ it is not.

So, words with the pronounced ‘h’ take the indefinite article ‘a’ (a hot dog, a horse).

Words in which the ‘h’ is silent take the indefinite article ‘an’ (an hour, an heirloom).

Some time ago, it was common to pronounce ‘hotel’, ‘horrific’ and ‘historic’ without the h sound (as if spelled ‘otel and ‘istoric). That’s generally no longer the case. Therefore, consistent with other words where the ‘h’ is pronounced, we write ‘a hotel’, ‘a historic church’ or ‘a horrific experience’.