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I am writing a technical report. After finishing the first draft, I asked my friends, who are native English speakers, to proofread my writing. They found and corrected several errors in my report. For example, my original writing was:

The bound scales with the aperture size, coherence width, spatial spread, and signal strength.

One guy corrected it like this:

The bound scales with the aperture size, the coherence width, the spatial spread, and the signal strength.

On the other hand, another friend corrected it as

The bound scales with the aperture size, with the coherence width, with the spatial spread, and with the signal strength.

To me, both look OK. But, I am not sure which one is better. Problems related to repeating or omitting articles and prepositions in a series of items always confuse me.

  • 3
    Your original version is correct and most succinct. I have a hard time believing that native English speakers would have suggested those other two options. – Kristina Lopez Mar 10 '14 at 17:26
1

When I write technical papers I don't usually use the last example (where "with the" is repeated) although that might just be me. It just doesn't seem functional. I've also never seen it used. But all three are right. It's a stylistic choice as to which you should or shouldn't use.

I have used the form with repeating "the" before, but I've never seen it used with properties like in your examples. Usually I see it used with bigger phrases (like when you're responding with a list of test results or something), but again, stylistic choice. Oh, but when someone's talking about errors, I see that repeating the form used a lot.

While the consumer environment, the test environment and the development environment seem functional, the last bounce to our system seems to have brought up an issue where the test code is seen in the consumer environment.

However, if I'm getting a memo, that same sentence would only have one "the" before "consumer environment". But...if you omit the multiple the's in my example, it would still make sense. But this isn't a standard or anything-- I don't think anyone cares as long as it's clear.

From a (slightly) technical standpoint, I don't see the problem with leaving your statement as is.

1

This is a case of successive applications of Conjunction Reduction. All are grammatical.

What you start with in meaning is four sentences:

  1. The bound scales with the aperture size (of X).
  2. The bound scales with the coherence width (of X).
  3. The bound scales with the spatial spread (of X).
  4. The bound scales with the signal strength (of X).
    (The "of X" part has already been deleted, but it's still understood in all four.)

Conjoin them all with and, and then start deleting.
Boldfaced items get deleted, because they're already in the first clause

  • The bound scales with the aperture size,
    and the bound scales (with (the coherence width)),
    and the bound scales (with (the spatial spread)),
    and the bound scales (with (the signal strength)).

    ==>
    The bound scales with the aperture size, with the coherence width,
    with the spatial spread, and with the signal strength.

  • The bound scales with the aperture size,
    with (the coherence width),
    with (the spatial spread),
    and with (the signal strength).

    ==>
    The bound scales with the aperture size, the coherence width,
    the spatial spread, and the signal strength.

  • The bound scales with the aperture size,
    the coherence width,
    the spatial spread,
    and the signal strength.

    ==>
    The bound scales with the aperture size, coherence width, spatial spread, and signal strength.

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Firstly, bounds needs to be plural in this sense.

As for coordinate nouns in a series, the Chicago Manual of Style (section 5.73) says:

With a series of coordinate nouns, an article may appear before each noun but is not necessary {the rose bush and hedge need trimming}. If the things named make up a single idea, an article need not be repeated {in the highest degree of dressage, the horse and rider appear to be one entity}. And if the named things are covered by one plural noun, the definite article should not be repeated {in the first and second years of college}.

The nouns in your sentence are all covered by bounds, so the definite articles should not be repeated. So your sentence should be written:

The bounds scale with the aperture size, coherence width, spatial spread, and signal strength.

  • You don't know the context of this sentence. It's entirely appropriate to talk about a single bound, referring (perhaps) to a mathematical upper bound or lower bound. – WinnieNicklaus Mar 10 '14 at 17:29
  • There are stylistic reasons to include the definite articles--emphasis being the one that comes to mind first--so I wouldn't edit them out on principle. – tylerharms Mar 10 '14 at 20:26
  • Note that my edit corresponds to Prof. Lawler's analysis above. – Gnawme Mar 10 '14 at 21:11

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