As part of my translation studies, I have to detect anomalies in a user's manual. This manual refers to an equipment whose full name is Compuwash Commander Controller - Model CC-64. Lack of coherence is considered an anomaly in technical writing. My problem is that the manual is not constant in the use of the definite article. It sometimes refers to "the controller CC-64", sometimes to "CC-64 Controller" only:

  • The CONTROLLER CC-64 is the brains of the system and contains the following major components: [...]
  • The ROC-16 Relay Centers communicate with CC-64 Controller via a 4 twisted pair shielded wire [...]

Similarly, it sometimes refers to "the CC-64" and other times to "CC-64" with no article, such a in the examples below:

  • The memory and clock/calendar that is resident in the CC-64 has battery backup [...]

  • Position the DT-32 Dumb Terminal on a table top next to CC-64 or office [...].

Which of these sentences are faulty? Should I just find out which usage is more frequent in the manual and consider it the correct form?

Thank you for your help.


In the examples you quote, I would use the article in all cases. Leaving it out would work if one gets to understand CC-64 as a proper name, but I do not expect that in technical writing.

Compare for instance:

The space shuttle has landed.
Space shuttle Endeavour has landed.

In this case the article is omitted because a proper name is used. In your manual, the type name is not the proper name of the controller, so I would certainly suggest using articles.

Your first sentence sounds a bit strange for other reasons as well - "the controller cc-64" is vague and sounds double. It makes me wonder if a word is missing, or if something else is meant:

The CC-64 controller...
The controller of the cc-64...

And X is the brains is of course a clash of numbers - but it is quite commonly used in this sense (John is the brains of the outfit).

| improve this answer | |
  • Brains in that context could also be a proper name, referring to the well-known character from Thunderbirds. So referring to him in the singular would be correct. – Graham Borland Jun 13 '14 at 15:02
  • @GrahamBorland or a mass noun -- in the sense of zombie food. – Chris H Jun 13 '14 at 15:30
  • This is the first time I am posting a question on this web site and I thank you very much for answering at length. I will take into account the fact that you do not expect a type name to be a proper name in technical writing. – Cathy Jun 14 '14 at 21:31

It's a question for those involved with choosing the proper names for the products or techniques involved. A proper name need not be preceded by an article (though the name itself might include an article).

If CC-64 Controller is a proper name in your context, as the capitalization would suggest, then don't use an article with it; otherwise, do.

For example, either of these makes sense when Oracle Database is considered a proper name:

  • You configure ports for Oracle Database using...

  • You configure ports for the database using...

What is considered a proper name in a given context might be dictated by the law and overseen by a legal department. For example, trademarks and such are written as defined, instead of changing their text with regard to articles, capitalization, and so on. But a term need not be a trademark or copyrighted to be a proper noun.

Should I just find out which usage is more frequent in the manual and consider it the correct form?

It is probably better to check with your organization or those responsible for the manual or its product(s). See whether there is a style guide or a list of proper names (especially trademarks and such) that speaks to such terminology. IOW, try to get a definitive answer first, instead of resorting to checking which is used more frequently. Frequent mistakes are still mistakes.

Finally, remember that if you are speaking about some part or aspect of a thing that has a proper name then you can use the name of that part together with the proper name -- with an article: the CC-64 Controller valve.... Or in your case, something like this:

  • The memory and clock/calendar that is resident in the CC-64 housing has battery backup...
| improve this answer | |
  • +1 for consulting organizational authorities / style guide. – Scott Jun 13 '14 at 14:39
  • As I mentioned to oerkelens, this is the first time I am posting a question on this site, and I am very much moved by the pains both of you took in answering at length. I thank you for your advice about a style guide or a list of proper names. This will be useful once I get started as a professional translator. – Cathy Jun 14 '14 at 21:26

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