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What is the correct article (a, the or maybe none) to use in the sentences and titles below:

First sentence:

  1. This article is about me, a programmer.
  2. This article is about me, the programmer.

A similar sentence:

  1. This article is about a programmer in me.
  2. This article is about the programmer in me.

(I would assume - perhaps wrongly - that either both cases 1 or both cases 2 above are correct, but in case I'm wrong I wanted to ask about those two forms explicitly.)

A title of an article:

  1. Me, A Programmer.
  2. Me, The Programmer.
  3. Me, Programmer.

I couldn't find any similar questions here and google searches for "about a * in me" and "about the * in me" didn't return anything meaningful.

I also assumed that using "I, Programmer" as in Asimov's "I, Robot" would not be correct here but please correct me if I'm wrong.

  • Most of the variants you mention are fine. Which you pick depends on the underlying intent / philosophy. – Lawrence Dec 20 '17 at 16:56
  • @Lawrence Most of the variants are fine, so not all of them, right? Could you explain what intent/philosophy is implicit in those variants that are fine? Thanks. (Maybe the second question is obvious to you but I am not a native speaker and I didn't quite understand what you meant as I don't see the difference in intent of those variants myself - sorry about that.) – rsp Dec 20 '17 at 17:06
  • The sentences are all correct, in that they don't violate major prescriptive rules of English usage. However, each variant has a different meaning to a native speaker. Without knowing your precise intent, we cannot recommend one variant over another. – Rob_Ster Dec 20 '17 at 17:23
  • @rsp Rob_Ster’s comment restates my comment well, and Paul B’s answer explains the a/the difference in the communication of intent. Your second set is couched in metaphor that expresses different ways of looking at the relationship between yourself and programming. – Lawrence Dec 20 '17 at 23:57
3

Although each of your sentences share the same first person subject, they each have subtly different implications.

  1. This article is about me, a programmer.

Here, you identify as a programmer, but there may be other aspects of you and your life the reader will learn about.

  1. This article is about me, the programmer.

Colloquially, "*me, the X" suggests a focus on a particular aspect of yourself and your life. I expect the article to be biographical and perhaps even confessional. It suggests that everything in this article will somehow relate to you being a programmer and/or will be expressed from your mindset as one.


Regarding your similar sentences, we generally say "... the X in me" when referring to a specific aspect of ourselves. If you say, "... a programmer in me," it sounds odd, as if there are several programmers in you (or anywhere), and you are referring to a particular one inside of you.


Finally, for your titles, I would suggest using I instead of Me, and for the same reason, would avoid the article 'a' and stick with 'the' or no article. I don't know of any "rules" about this, but once you follow the pronoun with a comma and "the X", it sounds more natural to me for the X to be in subject form.

Both these titles sound like biographies or confessionals:

I, the Programmer

This sounds like you will be describing your work as the sole programmer in the story. Other people may have been involved (design, distribution, etc.) but you alone were the programmer.

I, Programmer

This one sounds like a nod to Isaac Asimov, who ironically objected to that title (he had wanted to title the collection Mind and Iron) as it had already been used by another author. (Plus, I, Robot was not even told from the perspective of the robot!) My familiarity with I, Robot would color my expectations of this article. I would assume it would be biographical and told from the perspective of someone who approaches life and work with computer-like precision, but who nevertheless wants to be recognized for his/her humanity.

  • +1 for the first half of this answer, which is spot on (the advice about the title is not as persuasive ). – 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj Dec 20 '17 at 23:02
  • Thanks a lot for your answer. Especially the second part where you explain the subtle differences of how all of those forms would be understood is very helpful. This is exactly what I needed. Thanks a lot. – rsp Dec 21 '17 at 12:19

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