Understanding THE Article

Understanding THE Article

Many of us get troubled when we have to use English as a means of communication ¾ in conversation and in writing. Quite often the confusion (more in writing than in speech) is how and when to use or not use the article ‘the’.

A travel website, for example, has displayed a highlighted note for its readers: Log your road travel experiences here. Be sure to include the interesting pictures as well. This is an example of how articles are wrongly used, even on websites that are otherwise well designed and look sleek.

Similarly, “Which is right answer?” “She is the French lady” “The guard failed to catch thief” ¾ these are a few examples of wrong placement/omission of the article ‘the’ which are often used – intentionally or unintentionally.

Arijit, a friend of mine who works as a technical editor in a multinational IT company, feels the problem occurs either because “people don’t know the difference between articles a, an, and the” or because “they are non-native speakers of English”.

Recounting his experience, he says: “People usually use the article ‘the’ with proper nouns, such as names of applications. For example, ‘use the Enterprise Manager’ (it should be ‘use Enterprise Manager’). Or they use it without introducing the thing they refer to. ‘The following scan methods can be used for IOTs that contain the large objects.’ In this sentence, we don’t need ‘the’ as it is a generic reference to large objects and not specific to any large objects that we already mentioned. Disgustingly, ‘He is playing the tennis’ is normal Indian usage.”

His views are shared by Deb, a friend who is a sub-editor for a national magazine. She says, “Many times I come across sentences such as ‘Apart from academic refinement initiatives, school has been organizing several cultural and sports activities.’ The omissions take place even when it is necessary to retain the article. And I think that’s because people haven’t been taught properly at the primary level and therefore they don’t know the correct use of articles.”

Do you also find the use of ‘the’ bewildering? Here are some tips to learn when to use the article.


The easiest way to use ‘the’ is to remember to use it

  • When you know that the listener/reader knows or can guess what particular person/thing you are talking about. For example, The burger you ate was mine or Did you watch the match?
  • When you have already introduced the person/thing you are talking about. For example, Maya teaches two batches. One in the morning and the other in the evening.
  • When you are referring to specific rivers, oceans and seas and when the word river is omitted. For example: River Nile, the Brahmaputra, River Tapti, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific.
  • Before particular nouns which we know are only one of a kind. For example: the rain, the sun, the Earth, the Taj Mahal, the world, etc.
  • Before class nouns which show one thing as a representative of the class to which it belongs. For example, the fields, the sparrow, the last days of the spring.
  • When you are mentioning a particular person or thing which is the best or most famous. For example, Karim’s is the place to go for fresh kababs. I saw the Taj Mahal when I went to Agra this summer.
  • In place of possessive personal pronouns such as his, her, etc. For example, The eyes twinkled as the baby smiled.
  • When you want to emphasize a word almost equal to its descriptive adjective. For example, Here is the tower that shall remind coming generations of our sacrifice.


  • When you talk about things in general. For example, “The trees fell in the storm” mean only those trees fell to which you are referring to, whereas “trees fell in the storm” will mean many trees fell in the storm.
  • When you refer to a sport. For example, My daughter knows swimming not the swimming; Skating is expensive not the skating; cricket is his favourite sport not the cricket.
  • When you use uncountable nouns. For example, I will have coffee not the coffee; She needs information on global warming not the information.
  • Before names of countries and companies except where they indicate multiple areas or union, such as state(s), kingdom, republic, or union. For example, Infosys, Wipro, the India Today Group, Italy, Mexico, India, the UK, the US, and the Netherlands.

Hope these points help. If you have more examples to state or suggestions to use ‘the’ correctly, please share them by writing comments.


Learn English

Lousy Writer


Sprucing up Language

Sprucing up Language

It is strange how fast things change. Technology is ever evolving and so is language ¾ the change has become constant. In my school days we used to be taught that English language evolved over many years but now there were certain standard forms of words, letter writing, and phrases used in “formal” conversations and writings and denoted the usage of “good quality” language.

Now that school of thought is history. Everything has changed from what I learnt in school and the way I edit/write today. The language style, spellings, punctuation uses, and many such things have changed from the way I understood them in my childhood and used to be grilled in by the teachers. And I am not in my 30s yet!

As an editor, therefore, it has become imperative for me to keep updated with the changes in English language. I have been reading a lot past few weeks about editing lessons and what some of the forums have to say on editing guidelines. I found some good links which I thought it best to share here.

In one of my regular visits to Poynter.org, website for journalists and editors, I happen to click on News University. And that opened a plethora of lessons on editing, writing and what not. A must see.

I registered and took a course on “Cleaning Your Copy”. The course teaches everything an editor needs to be skilled with: Grammar, Style, Punctuation, and Spellings. Each section is a pack of lessons. It also teaches you things like proper sentence construction, active/passive voice, modifiers, pronouns, etc. Moreover, the website offers tips on reporting, writing, management, and everything you can imagine related with journalism and media.

Obviously books are a big help when it comes to editing. Style manuals such as Chicago Manual of Style are followed by most (non-technical) publishing houses in India. But to test yourself or for a fast access to grammar lessons you can visit Protrainco.com. I found this website’s grammar archives very useful. You can get some very good language tips here.

Wanted to provide a Youtube.com video on books editing, but there’s nobody there giving tips on that one.

Here’s one from me: It is always good to keep grooming your language skills and the best way is to keep practicing (conversing) with people who speak the language better and more fluently than you do. And sign up with some good language forums. Hope this helps. I may suggest some such forums next time.

While I go back to reading some more grammar newsletters, enjoy life!


Useful Links

Mayfield Handboolk

Good Grammar, Good Style Archive at Protrainco.com

Word Power

Word Power

It is amazing how wonderfully some people can concentrate on the meaning of words and how clearly they can explain them, too. Recently, I posted a query in a forum of English language experts regarding the “seven days a week” phrase that I came across while editing a book.

I was a bit confused why “seven days a week” cannot be written as “all week” or “all days of the week”. The answers that I received were common sense and enlightening:

“‘Seven days a week’ was perfectly normal construction in American English,” said a member from Florida adding, “this way the phrase eliminates any ambiguity of what a ‘week’ is.” He meant that since in the US there are “week days” and “weekend days,” there is a possibility of ambiguity which the phrase gets rid of if clearly written as “seven days a week”.

Another member said, “seven days a week” implies that other establishments are open on fewer days each week, for example, “six days a week” or “five days a week”.

“The mention of seven days in the expression is important as some people reading the article may come from a culture in which the normal working week is less than seven days, six days for instance. Such a person might assume that ‘all week’ means a working week of six days,” said an elaborate post.

In the UK, the phrase is used as good English and is understood easily with no ambiguity. A member said, “The alternatives are not so good: ‘all week’ may mean seven days, or ‘the working week’, which many assume to be five days. ‘All days of the week’ is equally vague, plus is ungrammatical. Instead, ‘every day of the week’ would be a little better.”

In all these answers there are a few important points:

§ importance of the order of words,
§ importance of the meaning we wish to convey in our writings,
§ check whether our sentences convey the intended meaning,
§ understand different cultures and keep global readership in mind,
§ apply regular grammar and spell checks, and
§ bring clarity of thought for unambiguous writing.

It is important here to realise how loaded each word is, and how carefully an editor/reader must read. Thanks to everyone who cared to reply to my query.

The Book Publishing Process

The Book Publishing Process

(The content here is based on my work experience as a books editor and some extra reading.)

According to the dictionary, ‘publishing’ means the profession or business of preparing and printing books, magazines, the profession or business of preparing and printing books, magazines, etc. and selling or making them available to the public.

Every publisher has different processes, schedules and at times different names for its departments. However, the publishing process largely remains the same. (There are variations and exceptions to the process depending on the type of book, publisher and whether the book is being outsourced or developed in-house.)

The publishing process comprises three main stages: acquisition, development, and production. Each of these stages has many processes involved.

Acquisition: To publish a book, a publisher must first acquire a manuscript from an author. A person who solicits manuscripts from authors is known as an Acquisition Editor (AE). Mainly, an AE advises the publisher which book to publish, i.e. by

(a) generating ideas for books and find appropriate authors, and

(b) attending to/inviting new manuscript proposals.

Since an AE receives many solicited and unsolicited manuscripts, he/she evaluates each manuscript to judge its quality and revenue potential. After a manuscript is accepted, AE negotiates an agreement between the publisher and the author on purchase of intellectual property rights (including copyright) and royalty rates, a gross retail amount that is paid to the author according to book sales.

Commissioning: The role of a commission editor (CE) and that of an AE is not much different. In India, most publishers hire either of the two and the role is much the same.

Role of a CE/AE:

  • understand the book trade and potential market,
  • ensure that authors deliver manuscript to specification and on time,
  • communicate with authors/editors regarding manuscripts, layout options, and design/cover options,
  • manage ongoing projects, and
  • manage published titles, i.e., keep track of the stock levels and order reprints of books as and when required.

Development:At this stage the process of copyediting the manuscript begins.

Copyediting: Most publishers have house style and copyeditors edit the manuscript to style. Where there is no house-style, many publishers and editors follow the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) as the yardstick. A copyeditor, from here onwards called the editor, edits the manuscript in many ways during the editing phase:

  • Developmental editing: Before beginning to edit the manuscript the editor evaluates the manuscript for content structure, presentation and the need for more documentation. If the manuscript requires heavy rewriting, restructuring, or new content (tables/illustrations/documentation), the author is requested to provide the same. Usually, the author is given two weeks to do the needful.
  • Mechanical editing: Manuscript is checked for consistency of style, capitalization, spellings, hyphenation, punctuation, use of abbreviations, quotation marks, the way numbers are treated, table format, consistency between text, tables and illustrations, and for grammar, syntax, etc.
  • Substantive editing: This type of editing involves checking organization and presentation of the content, rephrasing words/sentences for clarity or to eliminate ambiguity, tightening or simplifying text and meaning, etc.
    (Source: CMS, 15th ed.: 71)

Post editing the editor sends queries to the author along with the edited manuscript. Again, minimum two weeks’ time is given to the author to send answers and any suggested changes to editor’s edits.

Production: At this stage the edited manuscript is laid out and finalised for printing.

Typesetting: After incorporating the author’s answers to queries and corrections, the editor passes on the manuscript for typesetting.

Proofreading: Post typesetting, the edited manuscript pages called the proofs are checked by a proof reader for grammatical, typographical, and layout errors. The corrections are carried out and a fresh set of proofs is sent for author’s approval and last-minute changes. Again the changes are carried out by the typesetter and a print-ready copy, known as camera-ready copy (CRC), is created.

On the design side, cover design, specification of paper quality, binding method, and casing are finalised at this stage.

Printing: Even though large publications like newspapers have their own printing presses and binderies, book publishers generally outsource it to smaller presses. The PDF and PageMaker/In Design file of the CRC is finally sent to the printer along with a copy of the cover design for printing the number of copies agreed between the publisher and the author.

Distribution: Advertising, marketing and distribution are generally done by the publisher. Book publishers generally sell their books through book distributors who store and distribute/sell the publisher’s product on commission basis.



  1. Editor reads book. Sends author a revision letter or requests revisions.
  2. Concept for cover art is discussed.
  3. Author is given two weeks to revise the manuscript.
  4. Cover design sketches are passed to the editor for input.
  5. Editor reads revised manuscript, edits.
  6. Editor sends manuscript to author for review and answering queries.
  7. Author has two weeks to answer queries and review editor’s changes and approve or disapprove.
  8. Cover changes are made and final cover design is created.
  9. Copy of the final book cover is sent to author for review.
  10. Author reviews cover and suggests changes.
  11. Author’s changes are carried on the cover design.
  12. First set of proofs is sent to the author for approval.
  13. Author has two weeks to review proofs and make any last-minute changes.
  14. Editor reviews author’s proof changes and sends to production.
  15. Camera-ready copy is created and checked for any last-minute errors.
  16. Marketing begins. Salesmen visit bookstore buyers to get orders.
  17. Final PDF and Cover Design are sent for printing and binding.
  18. Book is printed, based on number of orders.
  19. Book is distributed.
    (Source: http://www.sabrinajeffries.com)