Rule 5: Order [the] elements included in a bibliographic record in the most appropriate way to retrieve the book.

For example, if the books are retrieved according to the author, the author element should appear first. If the books are retrieved according to their title, the title element should appear first.

Jerome, J.K. - Three Men in a Boat - 1889
Palahniuk, C. - Fight Club - 1996
Wodehause, P.G. - Something Fresh - 1915
Fight Club - Palahniuk, C. - 1996
Something Fresh - Wodehause, P.G. - 1915
Three Men in a Boat - Jerome, J.K. - 1889
1889 - Three Men in a Boat - Jerome, J.K.
1915 - Something Fresh - Wodehause, P.G.
1996 - Fight Club - Palahniuk, C.

I try to understand whether the definite article should be used in such a case.

On the one hand, we talk about elements included in a bibliographic record. They are not "just" elements.

On the other hand, "a bibliographic record" itself is used in indefinite sense.

1 Answer 1


Yes you should use the indefinite article here. "Order the elements included in a bibliographic record..." is correct.

"a bibliographic record" uses 'a' because it doesn't matter which record you pick. It is referring to any one of a set of records.

Once you have picked a record, you are then specifically talking about the single set of elements within that record. You aren't talking about any of a set of elements or any elements from any records. It is one specific instance of elements(The one from the record you chose) so you use 'the'.

  • Thanks! But why there are also sentences that doesn't follow this logic? For example: "She is a writer for Harvard Business Review and an author of a book on Social Era rules." (The New York Times, ludwig.guru/s/%22an+author+of+a+book%22). Isn't contradict what you just described so clear?
    – user90726
    Dec 3, 2020 at 16:24
  • I mean, there is "an author of a book" rather than "the author of a book".
    – user90726
    Dec 3, 2020 at 16:33
  • 1
    You're right, @jsv. She is an author ofr a book ... strongly suggests that the book has several authors, and she is one of them. If she is in fact the only author, then this is phrase is strange.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 3, 2020 at 17:14
  • 1
    I take this usage to mean that there are many books on Social Era rules, and that she is the author of one of those books. But it would be more correct, in my view if it said "she is the author..." unless the book has multiple authors. Dec 3, 2020 at 17:39

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