I write a paper about CSS and there is a following fragment:

When appropriate, alphabetize shorthand component values.

The order in which the component values of a particular shorthand may appear is defined by its formal syntax.

/* font-style, font-variant, and font-weight may appear in any order,
and they are all omissible, but if present, they must precede
font-size and font-family, which are both required and must appear in
that order */
font: italic small-caps bold 12px/18px serif;

The subject of my interest is the second sentence. Specifically, the article in the very beginning.

On the one hand, the order in which component values may appear may differ (e.g., italic after small caps). On the other hand, these variations are limited.

So my question: Which article should be used in the beginning of the second sentence? The, An, or none (since the noun order is uncountable)?

  • 1
    The order is defined, so there is only one order. Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 19:09
  • @WeatherVane But there are actually possible multiple orders. (Yes I know it is ungrammatical to put "s" here.)
    – user90726
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 19:12
  • It is the. The order . . . is defined as... Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 19:19
  • 1
    [Not I write a paper. In English, we say here: I'm writing a paper. Simple present: I write a paper every semester for this class.]
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 21:59

1 Answer 1


The definite article, 'the', is used for something specific. You are referring to a specific order, so you should use it.

The fact that there are multiple possible orders is irrelevant - once you have narrowed it down to a specific example, it is definite.

For example:

I'm going to tell you about a man I know. You may also know the man I'm going to talk about it.

In this example, I used both the indefinite and the definite article about the same subject. The first time, I was referring to him as one among many. I know many men, he is just one. But, once I have highlighted that I am only going to talk about one man, he is the man I am speaking about.

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