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I have a question about repeating the definite article. At my job, we have to discuss various cost elements. In our reports, people never repeat the definite article, but I think it's necessary. Here are some examples:

  • The proposed and objective indirect costs are summarized below. VS. The proposed and the objective indirect costs are summarized below.

  • The variance between the proposed and objective indirect costs equates to $450,000. VS. The variance between the proposed and the objective indirect costs equates to $450,000.

I believe that the term "indirect costs" is a non-count noun -- you are discussing a set of indirect costs (i.e., there are multiple different indirect costs items, such as engineering overhead, material overhead, G&A, etc).

Failing to repeat the definite article seems to suggest that you are referring to one set of indirect costs when you are really discussing 2 different sets of costs (i.e., the adjectives "proposed" and "objective" are referring to 2 different sets of costs/subjects). That said, the meaning is likely still clear within the context of the overall document. Should the definite article be repeated in this case?

  • There's more than one way to swing a dead cat. I favor omitting the "the's." Answerer @Lambie, below, gives you one possibility, and I agree with him/her. My problem is with the contiguous "objective indirect." Shouldn't there be a comma between the two words? (Either that, or a hyphen.) For example, "The proposed- and objective, indirect costs are summarized below." Or, "The proposed- and objective-indirect costs are summarized below." (Not that I favor either edit, since Lambie's edited sentence--"The variance between proposed costs and objective indirect . . ."--sounds good to me. – rhetorician Sep 10 '16 at 14:45
  • @rhetorician I hate that expression. How about swing a dead dictator? – Lambie Sep 10 '16 at 17:21
  • @Lambie: That's a good one too! Actually, I'm a cat lover--and a besotted one at that. She has me wrapped around her little paw. She follows me all around, talks to me (in cat-speak), and has me generally well trained. She's my alarm clock in the morning (she gently scratches my head when it's breakfast time); she loves watching me flush the toilet and then looks at the action of the water with her two paws on the toilet seat (yes, I put the seat down after flushing, like a good boy); and when I walk past her, she invariably reaches out to touch my ankle, as if to say, – rhetorician Sep 11 '16 at 1:28
  • "Hey, where are you going? I need some attention here!" So, not offense intended. Perhaps I should substitute the word "rat" for cat. Would that be an improvement? Don – rhetorician Sep 11 '16 at 1:29
  • Please omit the second article. The second article sounds awful and therefore makes it hard for the reader or the listener to focus on the idea. I understand that you noticed that the nouns function slightly differently, but that doesn't mean the articles in front of them function differently. – aparente001 Sep 11 '16 at 5:14
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Disambiguation and the.

Editing: Proposed costs and objective indirect costs are summarized below.

  • There is no need for /the/ actually. The reason is that your readers know the document refers to a specific project or company or thing.

  • You can put in one /the/ but by repeating the word costs, you remove any ambiguity re this referring to two separate items.

  • By repeating the word costs, there is no doubt that you are referring to two separate cost items. It is not the /the/ that makes the difference.

Editing: The variance between proposed costs and objective indirect costs equates to $450,000.

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