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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.
  • The proposed and the objective indirect costs are summarized below.
  • The variance between the proposed and objective indirect costs equates to $450,000.
  • 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 two different sets of costs (i.e., the adjectives "proposed" and "objective" are referring to two 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?

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  • 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. Sep 10, 2016 at 14:45
  • @rhetorician I hate that expression. How about swing a dead dictator?
    – Lambie
    Sep 10, 2016 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, Sep 11, 2016 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 Sep 11, 2016 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. Sep 11, 2016 at 5:14

2 Answers 2

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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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The structure of your sentence is as follows: "The variance between a and b equates to c."
a=proposed indirect costs; b=objective indirect costs; c=$450,000.

Therefore, I think you would have to write it as

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

In the first sentence, for the sake of clarity, you would have to write it as follows:

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

You can't say "I have a black and white dog" (1 dog: black and white) when you want to say "I have a black and a white dog" (2 dogs: one black and the other white).

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  • Hello, ANS. Omitting a second definite article is a common form of conjunction reduction and usually totally acceptable where clarity or ease of parsing aren't compromised (as here). See the flagged duplicate. Sep 11, 2021 at 10:41