When writing a confirmation message, (i.e. from a computer system) is it correct to say:

"Item was modified"

or is it necessary to include the determinate article:

"The item was modified".

  • "correct" has no meaning in this context, unless you specify whose standards you wish to be judged by. There is no authoritative standard for any English, still less for what is appropriate in user interface design.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 15 '14 at 14:27

If you are going to be mechanically terse and succinct, go further:

Item modified.

That reads more like an automatic message. ¨Item was modified¨ is actually a little jarring (to some readers, at least) because it feels like badly worded English. Remove was from the phrase and it is clearly terse computer text.

That said, with such a short message, I would keep both the definite article and the verb, because it takes little space. Software can be intimidating enough. It is possible to be brief (avoiding excess wording) without being terse.


By now, most people who use computers are accustomed to seeing terse system messages flashing up on the screen.

So the choice is up to you, assuming that you're not expected to follow a particular style guide.

Personally, I think it's politer (and seems more friendly) to include the definite article, but I wouldn't say it was essential.

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