According to Wikipedia “Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun." These are words like “the,” “a” and “an.” Possessive pronouns, of course, would be things like “his,” “her” and “their.”
They’re almost invisible, for crying out loud! You read right over them without a second thought, but what a huge difference they make in meaning. For example, here are my gut responses to the following nearly identical sentences taken totally without context.
She picked up a hat and tossed it into the lake! – This sounds joyful. She picked up some random hat out of several, it seems. Maybe there was a scattering of paper birthday hats, and in a carefree moment she just grabbed one and tossed it to the wind.
She picked up the hat and tossed it into the lake! – Okay, now she has a bone to pick with either that hat or that hat’s owner. She picked that one for a reason.
She picked up her hat and tossed it into the lake! – Oh man! Angst. Ugly hat? Hat that flops over her eyes so she can’t see where she’s going and makes her run into low hanging branches? Whatever the reason she wants to be rid of THAT particular hat.
She picked up his hat and tossed it into the lake! – She’s pissed. You don’t toss somebody else’s hat into the lake unless you are royally pissed. That guy had better watch out, he may be next.
So what did this little exercise do for me? Scared the heck out of me, that’s what! If even the tiniest words are so important, how can I ever hope to clean my manuscript to the point of perfection?
Answer – I can’t. But I can try. I can pay attention to word choice, look for consistency, ingest the feeling of each sentence word by word. And I can find myself some excellent beta readers who will do the same. Bless those beta readers.
How about you? Do you find yourself nitpicking over word choice, or distracted by poor word choice in the things you read?