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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.

RULES MADE SIMPLE

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.

DO NOT USE ‘THE’

  • 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.

FOR MORE READING

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Lousy Writer

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(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.

 

PROCESS IN POINTS

  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)

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