To The or not to The.....?

Subject: To The or not to The.....?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 06 Sep 2005 11:38:44 -0400

Victoria Wroblewski wondered: <<In the past, speaking about our Widget XYZ (a combined software/hardware solution-type thing) I've leaned towards calling it "Widget XYZ". It's our product, trademark and all, and darn it I like the Microsoft Manual of Style. Marketing, it appears, calls it "the Widget XYZ".>>

The solution would be clearer if you take a step back and examine standard English grammar. Compare, for example, "Geoff answered this question" and "the Geoff who lives in Canada [i.e., not the other Geoff] answered this question". In short, this is an issue of using a definite article (the) with a proper noun, and Microsoft (which I don't own) probably refers to this somewhere. In standard (non-Microsoft grammar), the definite article is generally only necessary when there's more than one possibility and you need to make a distinction.

In your specific case, you'd probably say things such as "Widget X renoberates the tarsi" versus "the X widget renoberates the tarsi whereas the Y widget de-renoberates the tarsi". <g*> Note that in the latter case, X and Y (not "widget") are the proper nouns, whereas "widget" is a generic noun. If, however, "Widget" (capped) is part of the registered trademark, the "the" is unnecessary because there is no other widget named XYZ--in general, the only case where the definite article is necessary is if there were two different widgets being discussed.

* Bonus points for anyone who can make either phrase make sense. <g>

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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to The or not to The.....: From: Victoria Wroblewski

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