I am a native speaker.

Say I am writing a set of instructions for making a cup of tea, I would normally write it as:

  1. Add water to kettle and boil.
  2. Place tea in pot and pour hot water over top.
  3. Strain tea into cup, add milk and sugar,* and enjoy.

My writing correction software Grammarly tells me that it should be like this:

  1. Add water to a kettle and boil.
  2. Place tea in a pot and pour the hot water over top.
  3. Strain tea into a cup, add milk and sugar and enjoy.

Which one is correct?

*Also I still have no idea whether or not I need this comma.

  • 2
    If you are writing in "telegraphic" style it is normal to omit articles which are not semantically necessary. – Hot Licks Sep 19 '19 at 1:58
  • 1
    As HotLicks says, you can leave out the articles. Recipes usually do. The one place you might want to use 'the' is in line 2, but only if the recipe has already specified the quantity of hot water needed. You don't really need that comma after 'sugar'. [By the way, shouldn't you say 'Wait a few minutes' after line 2??]' – Old Brixtonian Sep 19 '19 at 2:14
  • The comma after sugar is optional; Grammarly didn't know you were writing a recipe. – aparente001 Sep 19 '19 at 3:52
  • @HotLicks Zero article is a reality and not "telegraphic". Both are correct and grammatical, though they may mean different things. – Kris Sep 19 '19 at 10:59
  • @OldBrixtonian Thank you, that's what I thought. Also yes, I did mean to include a step saying "Allow tea to steep for 4 minutes." I only omitted it for the sake of brevity. – Justin Booth Sep 20 '19 at 0:12

Grammarly doesn't know what you're writing or who you're writing it for. The good news is that you know better than Grammarly here. In the kind of texts where we use bulleted or numbered lists—for example in recipes, or instructions—it's very common and often better to omit articles, auxiliary verbs and certain other so-called function words.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Sep 26 '19 at 1:55
  • 1
    I like this answer. Recipes have traditionally been terse to save time for the writer and space on the page. A couple of years ago I had to write a legal petition of appeal with a tight page limit. I omitted every article I could if it would get one of my points down from three lines to two. You just have to be careful when using this style, to make sure that the reader will be able to understand your ideas. The examples OP wrote are fine -- they don't come across like a Hollywood stereotype of a Russian who is incapable of usink article. – aparente001 Sep 26 '19 at 5:18

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