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Writers Tip #44: Cut Unnecessary Articles

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip: Cut the unnecessary articles.

Sometimes they sound affected. Other times, they just aren’t necessary to get your message across. Get rid of them. Cut unnecessary articles (a/an, the) for stronger impact.

Not: A sadness washed over her.  Try this: Sadness washed over her.

Not: The library contains the information on many subjects. Try this: The library contains information on many subjects.

Here’s a test to see if you can distinguish where they’re needed. It’s short–probably five minutes. See how you do.

Questions you want answered? Leave a comment here and I’ll answer it within the next thirty days.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUBCSG Master TeacherEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is  editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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10 thoughts on “Writers Tip #44: Cut Unnecessary Articles

  1. I find ‘that’ to be an annoying word and when I’ve finished a novel I usually do a search for it and remove as many as possible. Now I’ll be looking for ‘of’ ‘a’ ‘an’ and ‘the’ and cutting them out as well 😀


    • I do the ‘find’ function too. I include ‘some’, ‘-ly’, ‘was’, ‘is’, ‘which’ and a slew of other words. I find going through in bits–like you’d have to when removing those annoying words, tightens the writing of everything.

      That’s the only time editing is fun.


  2. Hi Jacqui. I’m wondering about the article “of.” In a recent critique session, a writer wrote the following sentence: They would invite a couple aunts and uncles and their families. We were trying to decide if it should say “a couple OF aunts…” but weren’t sure since there seems to be a push to remove articles that aren’t absolutely necessary. Your thoughts?


    • I’d probably avoid the entire question with ‘…would invite aunts and uncles and their families’. Of course, it there are ten aunts and uncles and only 2-3 are invited, that could change the meaning. But, there’s an opportunity for color about the character’s background.


      • That definitely sounds better. Because it was an interview, I don’t know what kind of license she has to change it, but when I get into the same questions for myself, I’ll remember to see if there’s a better way to write rather than arguing with myself about articles. 🙂


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