I have the following sentence in the beginning of my abstract:

The scattering of light due to the presence of aerosol particles along the path of light waves causes atmospheric haze in images.

And I have received the remark that I should omit the article "The" from the beginning because this sentence is the first one in the abstract/introduction.

Is this right or wrong?

  • Please clarify. Did you receive the remark from the editor or referee of a specific journal? If so, check the journal's style in either instruction to authors or by looking at a few issues. If it is the journal's style, it seems a bizarre stylistic quirk of this particular field, which certainly does not apply to any biological science journal I have ever published in. Right or wrongness clearly does not come in to it.
    – David
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 15:02
  • No it was not for any specific journal, rather a general remark from my adviser which I also found very strange. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 15:07
  • Your advisor wants you to remove a three letter word. As long as the three letter word is not "not", just remove it without discussing it. Someday you, too, will be an advisor and can inflict your foibles on your students. :)
    – ab2
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 19:45
  • 1
    @ab2: Maybe the OP wants to know whether he should worry about starting abstracts with articles after he gets his degree and no longer has to worry about pleasing his advisor. Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


Physical Review A, B, C, D, E and Physical Review Letters require that articles be dropped from the start of titles. Maybe some other journals do as well.

I have never heard of anybody requiring that a, an, the be dropped at the start of an abstract. A brief glance at Physical Review Letters shows that a reasonable fraction of their abstracts start with an article. But maybe the requirement to drop the article from titles was the inspiration for your adviser's remark.

Titles in English generally use an abbreviated grammar that shortens them. However, most newspapers and publications don't actually forbid articles at the start of titles. This requirement in Physical Review is somewhat controversial, and leads to a few titles having unusual English grammar1.

Since this is your adviser's suggestion, and since that sentence sounds perfectly fine without the article, I would suggest going ahead and dropping it.

1 For example, a title starting with "General Theory of Relativity ..." or "Moon was created ..." would sound wrong.

  • 2
    (And conversely, Physical Review requires that articles start with an abstract.) Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 14:49
  • Shor So you can't conversationally delete the abstract ... it needs to be concrete. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 16:19

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