1. Alex Koudrin
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    Alex Koudrin New Member

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    Type of article in front of terms when defining them

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alex Koudrin, Nov 15, 2012.

    Hi,

    I'm writing a technical guide and I need to define many concepts. The problem is I don't know which article, The, A, or no article at all to use!

    For example, I have a sentence like this:

    A front pin is when the ball is pinned in front....

    but it could be:

    The front pin is when the ball is pinned in front....

    Front pin is when the ball is pinned in front....


    Or another one:

    A pull shot involves dragging of the ball ....
    The pull shot involves dragging of the ball ....
    Pull shot involves dragging of the ball ....

    I would like to be consistent and for all my terms to use something.

    Any help appreciated!

    -Alex
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    either 'a' or 'the' will work well... but one is needed... it doesn't read well or make good sense without...

    i would use 'the' as it seems to be more appropriate to a technical guide...
     
  3. Alex Koudrin
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    Alex Koudrin New Member

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    Personally I like 'a'. 'The' seems unnatural to me. Perhaps it's because most of my definitions are nouns and when defining a new one, does it really make sense to specify a particular one?

    The guide is technical, however it is aimed at general audience.

    Any other opinions?
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it's a general term, use the indefinite article. If it is a unique part in an assembly (for example) use the definite article.

    A front pin is when the ball is blocked, or pinned, by...

    The face is the flat or ribbed surface on the front of the club head, which strikes the ball on a clean stroke...
     
  5. Alex Koudrin
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    Alex Koudrin New Member

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    Thank you for the clarification!
     
  6. Alex Koudrin
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    Alex Koudrin New Member

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    Sorry a quick follow up question. When the concept is introduced, e.g. A front pin is when the ball is blocked... then how do I refer it in later sentences with a The or still with an A?
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on context. If you refer to the instance in the abstract, use the indefinite article. However, if you refer to a particular instance, even a random selection from the abstract set, use the definite article.

    A front pin can occur because... (no specific front pin)

    If you..., the resulting front pin will be particularly... (a particular front pin has been selected by the preceding clause)

    However, there will be many cases that can be argued either way:

    A front pin caused by... (selector considered to have not narrowed to a specific instance)
    The front pin caused by... (you want to consider the selected instance as a concrete example)

    You don't have to be 100% consistent with the "either way" cases. In fact, it will probably read better if you do vary them.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i must've posted before having my morning green tea!... cog is right, of course... sorry for the confusion...
     
  9. Alex Koudrin
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    Alex Koudrin New Member

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    Thanks for clarifying it. I had a similar feeling that it was a case-by-case basis type thing.
     

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