Source: Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold


Despite the fancy appearance, this was just a switch designed for maximum speed. The most comfortable way to use the key for long periods of time was to hold the handle between thumb, forefinger and middle finger and tap it up and down. Holding the key down for a short period of time produced a Morse code dot. Holding it down longer produced a Morse code dash.

First of all, why do you think there is no definite article at least before the word thumb? And secondly, how do you think the sentence would be different in meaning or style if we had placed one there? Would it be grammatically plain wrong or just constitute a bad writing style?

  • @rogermue: Could you take a little more care in creating new tags for a) individual words and b) concepts already generally covered by existing tags? – Nathan Tuggy Sep 8 '15 at 18:17
  • @NathanTuggy Do you think zero-article would make sense? I tend to choose it for these sorts of topics, but now I'm rethinking. – ColleenV Sep 8 '15 at 20:49
  • @ColleenV: Yeah, it would probably fit in here pretty well. – Nathan Tuggy Sep 8 '15 at 20:52

In instructions or expositions of a practice or procedure, it is quite common to drop articles before objects and items universally recognized in the domain in question:

Lay the tar-paper between sheathing and shingle.

Measure the distance from cuff to armpit.

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It is an enumeration. Without article it is a short compact formula and no less understandable.

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  • Could you please give me some examples? What you have there is a very short answer that doesn't tell how to use an enumeration in writing. – Michael Rybkin Sep 8 '15 at 10:31
  • That link proves wrong everything you said in your post. An enumeration in their view is a list of things that are listed one after the other where only the first item in the list has an article. But, in my example above there's none before the first item in the list. And I find it strange. I don't understand how adding an article in front of "thumb" would make the sentence sound clumsy. – Michael Rybkin Sep 8 '15 at 15:56
  • You will find a lot of different views about language, grammar and stylistics. – rogermue Sep 8 '15 at 16:15

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