To Article or Not to Article

Throughout my projects and writing schedules, I deal with numerous situations when I get stuck between choosing to use or not to use the definite or the indefinite articles. This post contains a handy list of situations when I am supposed to NOT use the articles:

The Definite Article

Do not use the when:

  • Naming holidays: for example, “I went home for Holi.”
  • Naming seasons: for example, “Winter has arrived.”
  • Referring to geographical locations: for example, “Next month, I’ll be in New Zealand”, or “He provides consultancy to banks and hospitals.” Note that I did not use the definite article for banks and hospitals, too, which qualify as geographical locations. Unless specified, do not use the definite article in such cases. For example, “We visited The Central Business Park last week.”
  • Referring to sports: for example, “Rohan played Cricket until last year.”
  • Referring to things in general or when using the plural nouns: for example, “I love dogs” or “Marathis love to dance”, or “we love listening to music.” Of course, the usage will differ based on countable, uncountable, or countless nouns (dogs, Marathis, and music all are pluralized), but we will discuss that some other day.
  • Talking about languages: for example, “Shambhavi can speak Sanskrit.”
  • Using names (or nouns): for example, “Shailaja works for Microsoft” or “Anil is an alumnus of Devi Ahilya University.

The Indefinite Articles

Do not use either a or an:

  • With adjectives that modify something that’s contextually understood or imperative: for example, “Spruha is intelligent.” However, when the sentence contains information about what the adjective modifies, then include the indefinite article: for example, “Spruha is an intelligent kid.” In this sentence, the italicized fragment refers to the kid’s intelligence.
  • With plural and uncountable nouns: for example, “Apples are apples and oranges are oranges.”

Happy writing.

About Suyog Ketkar

He is a certified technical communicator. He believes that writing continues to be an easy-to-do-but-difficult-to-master job. In his work time, he proudly dons the “enabler” cape. In his non-work time, he dons many hats including one of a super-busy father.
This entry was posted in Technical Communication, Writing, in general and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.