1. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    'The Earth' versus 'Earth'

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by DefinitelyMaybe, Nov 25, 2015.

    When should 'The Earth' be used instead of 'Earth'?

    E.g. it sounds right to me to write "In the fifty years since we left Earth, mountains, streams, and wide open grasslands had become faded memories. Like holiday snaps left out in the sun."

    If I put in 'the', it sounds wrong, and I don't know if the 'the' should be capitalised or not.

    In the fifty years since we left the Earth, mountains, streams, and wide open grasslands had become faded memories. Like holiday snaps left out in the sun.

    When do we use 'The Earth', e.g. here 'The' sounds natural to me.

    "The Earth rose above the Moon's horizon, a streaked blue marble floating against the black background of space."

    What are the rules, if there are any?
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2015
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think there is a hard and fast rule here, but "the Earth" (the wouldn't be capitalised unless the start of a sentence) seems redundant to me. We never say "the Venus" or "the Mercury". I think "the Earth" only sounds okay because we can also use it to mean the earth that we walk on or plant in a pot. "The planet Earth" sounds better to me, even though it's even more redundant.

    Interesting question. :)
     
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  3. Tom13
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    Tom13 Member

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    Technically I don't think you should use it. Earth is a proper noun, and as such shouldn't have a 'the'.

    In the first example it would definitely sound wrong. In the second, I would actually also drop it, although I must admit, it doesn't sound 'wrong' as such to use it. (Also I don't think 'The' of 'The Moon' should be capitalised.)

    You would say 'the planet' because 'planet' is not a definite noun, but you wouldn't say 'The Mars' because that is.

    Of course you could say 'the planet Earth', but here 'the' refers to 'planet' not 'Earth'.
     
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  4. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting. I can drop 'moon' in the second example.

    "The Earth rose above the horizon, a streaked blue marble floating against the black background of space."

    But, that doesn't indicate where the POV character is. If I use 'moon' without the 'the', that seems wrong.

    "The Earth rose above Moon's horizon, a streaked blue marble floating against the black background of space."

    The 'the' will fix it, or I can use 'lunar'.

    "The Earth rose above the lunar horizon, a streaked blue marble floating against the black background of space."

    But, going full circle back to my first example.

    "The Earth rose above the Moon's horizon, a streaked blue marble floating against the black background of space."

    if I use 'Moon', the 'the' in front of it sounds natural.

    BTW: I made a number of edits to the example as you (@Tom13 ) were typing, including changing the capitalisation of the 'the'.
     
  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I like: "Earth rose above the lunar horizon, a streaked blue marble floating against the black background of space."

    Is this the opening line of a story? If it's already established that we're on the Moon, I'd just say "the horizon".
     
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  6. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's only an example written for this thread. But I usually write examples as if they are the first lines of stories. That way I have no assumed, or actual, previous context to use as a crutch; the example has to make sense by itself. That's why I don't want to use 'the horizon' in this example, as I feel that it's potentially ambiguous.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yep, that makes sense.

    It occurs to me that it's always "the Moon" even when talking about our own moon, as a proper noun. I have no idea why.

    Edit: NASA says we're wrong about Earth!

    http://history.nasa.gov/styleguide.html
     
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  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This is a tough question. When you write "Earth," you're talking about the name of a planet. Since all other planets are capitalized by convention, the name of our planet should be written the same way when talking about it in a similar context. For example:
    When you say "the earth," you're referring to the large chunk of dirt and rock, which we also can use to talk about our planet. It can also be used as a synonym for "the planet" in some cases, for example:
    Now, "the Earth" would be used in cases like "the rotation of the Earth." Here, it's used for specificity. I think this is fairly common usage, though I admit that it's a bit confusing since we don't do this for other planets.

    Anyway, I agree with the examples that you think sound right. They sound right to me as well. The last example is a bit tricky based on what I wrote above, but I think this is one of those times where how something sounds beats the rules of grammar.
     
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  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's interesting @Tenderiser and @thirdwind. The NASA style guide is a source I'm going to have to read fully given my frequent writing of SF.

    An editor recently took out the 'the's from before Earth in something I wrote. It did read smoother without them. I'm interested to see what the general advice is so that I can refine my future writing.
     
  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Is it not a proper noun in that context? I would definitely write "the Earth" in that example.
     
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  11. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    A quick search for examples suggests that the Bible disagrees with us. Deuteronomy 33:17.

    Searching for examples is difficult due to the William Goulding trilogy of novels "To The Ends of the Earth" which has title capitalisation.

    This is more difficult than I thought. I assumed that it was just some simple rule that I wasn't aware of.
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    No, it's just a synonym for planet (or even a large chunk of rock and dirt) in this case.

    Like I said, in general, if you're talking about Earth in the same way you're talking about Mars, Jupiter, etc., capitalize it and don't use "the" except in the cases I listed above. That's probably a safe rule to follow. Also, keep in mind that magazines and publishing houses don't use the NASA style guide, so some of the rules may differ. When possible, follow the Chicago Manual of Style.
     
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  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Say the word Earth enough times - like in the reading of this thread - and it starts to sound like such an odd sound to have chosen for the name of our home.
     
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