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Fixing T-H-E

In Blog #3, we discovered that ‘The’ is our most common English word. Once I realized it, I tried to write without using it as a word. IMPOSSIBLE! Look a page of any book and see how often we rely on it.

In the book ‘ The Bestseller Code’, it’s recommended that T-H-E be used as little as possible if writing fiction. In fact, Steven King is touted as the most successful non-user with T-H-E comprising only 10% of his words! Amazing!

THE is considered a dead word; suggesting that its use makes reading boring. I learned a lot from trying not to use it, although I found it impossible not to use at all, but I reduced how often I used it, until I stumbled across an amazing way to deal with it differently. Curious? Read on!


‘THE’ is an article in English—a specific one, meaning if we say ‘The Chicken’ we are referring to a specific one.

‘THE’ is also is a masculine word because of ‘he’ in its spelling. WEnglish for WEquality (WFW) therefore labels it as a ‘man’ word.


English has another article, which is spelled ‘A’ as in ‘A chicken’ or ‘AN’ as in ‘An egg’. It refers to non-specific items. In our example, any egg will do because we aren’t specifying which one. Got it?

How do English speakers know whether to use A or An?

It’s so easy we don’t even think about it. Here’s how it works:

If the next word begins with a consonant, we use A (as in A Chicken);

If the next word begins with a vowel, we use AN (as in AN Egg). Try it for yourself and see how consistent English is with this rule.


WEnglish for WEquality (WFW) applies our English ‘A/An’ rule to THE and spells it ‘T-H-A’ or ‘T-H-E’ as in ‘Tha chicken’ or ‘The egg’. Why ‘T-H-A’? Because that’s how we say it if the next word begins with a consonant. Try it hear and listen to how it sounds.

Tha dog. The apple.

You can hear tha difference!

All WFW is doing is following our English rule and taking hundreds of ‘MAN’ words out of English by spelling THA like we say it. So easy and even fun’ isn’t it? Saying those words out loud will prove to you that we say THA consistently when THA the next starts with a consonant. And since there are far more consonants than vowels in English, wouldn’t it be a good idea to use tha same A/AN rule with THE/THA? (By tha way, English dictionaries show a THE pronunciation first; in italics they show THA as an inverted ‘e’, like this: thƏ. Why not do it as linguistically correct?

Think about it. If ‘THE’ is our most common word, and if we choose to change how we spell it, we bring balance into English. How?

We are removing HE from our most common word whenever it’s followed by a consonant. That makes a big difference! Very simply, it removes a lot of HE words from English.

WEnglish wants to tip tha scales so that there are less ‘HE’ words in English. Adding THA as a word is a powerful change—tha biggest one we can think of.

There’s so much more we can do to balance English to make it inclusive.

Join us next time - we uncover two more key ‘man’ words that dishonor those of us who aren’t men*--and provide simple fixes again.

What if there’s a bedrock layer underneath English that denies women equality? What if it’s contained in our very words? Think about it.

*WEnglish defines ‘men’ as those who are male by birth, body parts, or choice. In other words, if you want to be a man, be a man. But pay attention to what ‘man words’ do to discredit those of us who aren’t.

To an inclusive English!

Vivian Probst

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As a linguist, I've studied English for (let's say) approximately fifteen years. No kidding. What about English could possibly enthrall a linguist that long? So glad you asked. Even if you didn't, it'


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