So let’s have another look at getting rid of the definite article then.
The other day I wrote about an interesting challenge with which I was presented – to write three versions of an article, with each individual sentence fully interchangeable with the other two articles, and each version of each sentence 100% unique.
I explained that creating wholly unique sentences with identical meaning and comparative length presented slightly more of a challenge than I anticipated. The problem was not so much that the major words were hard to change, but that those small pronouns and conjunctions were deadly. By far the worst though was the definite article. trying to avoid using the word ‘the’ was not the easiest or most natural task in the world.
If you recall, I set a challenge – using the following sentence:
‘The door slammed behind him as he dashed across the room, flinging himself against the window.’
This sentence contains three instances of the word ‘the’ – and my challenge to you was: can you re-write the sentence, retaining the meaning, but avoiding the definite article?
Here’s an example which, while it won’t gain very many literature awards, gives an idea of how it can be accomplished:
‘Slammed door behind him now, he dashed across rugs and scattered piles of paper, coming to an abrupt halt just in time to stop himself plummeting outside accompanied by shattered glass.’
The one thing you’ll notice instantly is how much longer this sentence is, and the reason is that there is clearly much more going on – there is more action, more description, to support the meaning of the sentence.
Rather unexpectedly I seemed to discover that by avoiding the definite article, the writing is forced into another level, where description and action support each other much more closely. It seems like a kind of mutual support structure, borne through sheer necessity.
Perhaps this is another of those examples which writers love, where an imposed restriction or limitation encourages creative thinking in a new direction.
Sometimes writers need a challenge, a limit, a deadline, anything that forces them to think along new and unfamiliar lines. I’m not advocating the abolition of the definite article – but perhaps it might be interesting to do a quick count of how many times it occurs in your writing, and how many instances of it can be replaced with more creative phrasing?
Next week: removing vowels from your writing.