Over time I developed this rule where if a title or a proper name is followed by a common noun that represents the class of the entity I am referring to, then I use the definite article. In Example 1, the title of a publication in the first sentence is followed by the noun "whitepaper", thus the definite article in front of it. Is this a valid rule?


  1. The "Advanced programming in Java" whitepaper was an excellent read.

    vs. "Advanced programming in Java" was an excellent read.

  2. The Microsoft Office 2010 product was released last year.

    vs. Microsoft Office 2010 was released last year.

  • I would phrase it "the whitepaper 'Advanced programming in Java' was an excellent read" if I were the writer.
    – Andy
    Feb 25, 2017 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is. This is because the phrase "Advanced programming in Java" whitepaper forms a syntactic unit, with whitepaper as the head of the unit. The definite article for a phrase always corresponds to the head of the phrase, so using the definite (or indefinite) article for these phrases makes perfect sense and is correct English.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer! To clarify one more thing, would using the article in the examples without the common noun be incorrect ("The" Advanced Programming in Java was an excellent read)?
    – Tom
    Sep 1, 2010 at 12:43
  • 4
    Sort of. In formal English, certainly it would be something to avoid. In casual speech, things along these lines are done from time to time. You example sounds more awkward for some reason, but I am thinking of, e.g., someone offering you several types of beer and you responding "I'll take the Heineken".
    – Kosmonaut
    Sep 1, 2010 at 12:57
  • Some phrases built by this rule still sound awkward. Specifically, I have a problem with this sentence: "By default, the compiler uses the x86 architecture, use the /x64 or /ia64 arguments to change it." Are the articles really in place here? Apr 26, 2016 at 20:46
  • Is omitting the definite article from such syntatic units a mistake? For example, "In Java programming language, strings are treated as objects."
    – Inego
    Jul 6, 2020 at 11:10

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