If I have a function, e.g.,

function processDirectory(input, relPath, output) {}

And I want to document its parameters, shall I use the or an article? For example,

  • input - the path to the source directory.
  • relPath - the relative path inside of the source directory.
  • output - the path in which to write the output.

I did some searching and e.g., here they use the port on which to listen..

What about throwing errors, such as "Please specify the path to the source directory", or "Please specify a path to a source directory", or "Please specify a path to the source directory". I reckon its the last one because it's the path to something we talk about later, but a source directory because we mention it for the first time? Although other developers would know which source directory we're talking about?


I would say all of those options are correct. There can be a subtle difference in meaning, though:

please specify a patch to the source directory: by using a, it is suggested that several different paths are possible, and that you need to provide one of those paths.

please specify the patch to the source directory: there is only one path that is correct, so we refer to this as the path.

Now suppose that the programme requires a path to a specific source directory, and only one path can be provided, which will be used throughout the programme. Then you could use the.

But suppose the path can be to any image file on the user's computer, whichever the user chooses; this might point to using a.

Both can be true at the same time, so it probably wouldn't matter much which you chose.

| improve this answer | |
  • but if I say The path to a source file from which to read data. don't I have to use the source file because I specify that it is the file from which to read data? – user181157 Aug 10 '18 at 17:51
  • @user181157: I would say the same rules apply. Both a source file and the can be defended on that basis. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Aug 10 '18 at 19:21

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