From eMedicine, "Thyroid Hormone Toxicity":

Levothyroxine's delayed onset of toxicity is thought to be secondary to the delay in conversion of T4 to T3 and the distribution of T3 into tissues. As a result, symptoms may be delayed, developing anyway from 6 hours to 11 days after ingestion. [...]
Mechanism of toxicity involves stimulation of the cardiovascular (CV), GI, and neurologic systems through presumed activation of the adrenergic system.

According to the Longman and Macmillan dictionaries, "mechanism" is a countable noun. Why no article?

  • 1
    Terse medical/scientific summary style. Distant cousin to headlinese. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 15 '16 at 12:51
  • @TRomano - thank you! I guessed it was so. This usually happens in technical manuals, and this article seemed un-technical to me, because it's quite long and the sentences are 'normal'. – CowperKettle Mar 15 '16 at 12:53
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    "Mechanism of toxicity" is also a pat phrase, a scientific collocation for the concept. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 15 '16 at 12:54

There is no grammatical justification for omitting the definite article, so it's either a proof reading error or an attempt at brevity.

Omitting articles is one of the accepted ways of abbreviating something, particularly in instructions, and medics do sometimes talk like that, but it is not really appropriate for an academic publication.


Standard English would indeed use an article: “The mechanism of toxicity involves …”. ◊ Omission of ◊ definite or indefinite article is something I see fairly often in technical literature in other fields (computer science and computer technology). It may be due to several factors: ◊ prevalence of non-native authors (but I've seen this in texts written by native English speakers too), saving space in limited-length papers or computer interfaces such as menus (but I've seen this in electronic-only technical documentation with no reason to save space), ◊ indication that the noun (or noun phrase) is a precise technical concept and gets a status that's closer to being a proper noun.

In this instance, I'd say that this is sloppy writing, possibly due to the habit of writing in limited space in scientific papers.

(◊ in this answer indicates where ◊ article that would normally be necessary might be omitted in scientific or technical writing.)

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