NPR claimed there's "no true answer" to how Twitter handles are pronounced. So we asked Dick Costolo

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on May 28, 2014

From The News Desk

Last month, NPR's On The Media explored a "Twitter grammar question with no true answer." How do you pronounce Twitter handles?

The question was prompted by this Twitter reply after NPR tweeted about "an @Guardian op-ed"...

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In response to Matheson's question, NPR's PJ Vogt wrote...

We all know the rule for "a" versus "an." If the next word starts with a vowel sound, we use a consonant. If the next word stars with a consonant sound, we use "an."

So the sentence "I read a Guardian article" is straightforward. But what about on Twitter? Any time you mention someone in a sentence, you use their handle. Which means every name on Twitter starts with @, a vowel sound. Do we count it? We tried to figure that out this morning. Their conclusion? That there can be no true answer because, as GrammarGirl put it, "it depends on how you say it in your head."

Poppycock. Of course there's a true answer and, frankly, NPR's unwillingness to flex its reporting muscles in search of it made me regret buying that second tote bag.

No such sloppiness here at Pando! When Sarah Lacy called me from the CODE conference earlier today to tell me she was about to catch up with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, I practically yelled at her: "Don't let him escape without answering whether you pronounce the '@' sign in Twitter handles."

As CEO of the company, Costolo's answer would, of course, be the "true" one. A few minutes later Sarah called me back with that answer.

"He said 'Yes, of course you do.'"

So there you have it. NPR's original tweet was exactly right: You do pronounce the '@' in Twitter handles.

Happy to help, NPR.