The definite article – a word that can hardly be referred to without including it within its own introduction. For those not so familiar with English grammar – I am talking about that innocuous, but oh so prevalent word – ‘the’.
Why am I thinking about this little word? Well, it all started with a special request I received from one of my clients…
The task was to rewrite each sentence of an article twice more, so that each sentence could be interchanged with either of its alternatives whilst keeping the flow and meaning of the original article the same. I expect many of you who are copywriters and online article writers have done the same thing.
However, this task was slightly more challenging, because I was requested to make sure that each alternative sentence was 100% unique when compared to both alternatives. Hmm.. 100% unique – that shouldn’t be too hard I thought.
Certainly rephrasing sentences using a wide variety of vocabulary was fairly easy, but when sentence length averaged between 20 and 25 words, it seemed almost impossible to achieve 100% unique variations. Why?
Because of those small, seemingly innocent words such as ‘it’, ‘a’, ‘is’, ‘of’ and of course – ‘the’.
This led me to challenge my approach to writing, and after a brief rant to myself about how impossible the job was, I started to discover a fascinating way of re-writing. The more I tried to obliterate the word ‘the’, the more the writing seemed to take on a completely new personality and dimension.
I can’t say that in every case the result was award winning, but in many cases I felt challenged in a way I hadn’t experienced before, and there were many examples where the alternative sentence, with the definite article removed, were preferable to the original.
For example, take the following sentence:
‘The door slammed behind him as he dashed across the room, flinging himself against the window.’
Note the fact that there are three occurrences of the word ‘the’ in the sentence above (and four in this sentence alone!)
Now try to re-write that sentence, without using the word ‘the’ even a single time.
I’ve done it myself, but I don’t want to spoil your fun – so why not have a go? Post your suggestions in the comments section, and when I post my next blog entry, I’ll include my own version.
Oh – and for a real challenge, remember to avoid adverbs too!