Articles Matter

By Laura Marello


Imagine that, 20 years ago, my father and I were visiting my sister in her apartment. It was a warm, sunny day. My sister was making us ice tea. I was sitting in the living room with my father. He was complaining about his wife and her children. He said: Sometimes I want to take the gun out of the drawer and shoot the whole lot of them.

I thought, The gun, out of the drawer? Not a gun out of a drawer?

Articles matter.

For another example, let us consider our former president Bill Clinton, and his statement –“ I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” I could say the emphasis was mine, but it was also his, when he said it those many years ago.

That statement, with his head waggling, and finger pointing, was shown over and over in news shows and documentaries of that period. But what if he had said, “I have not had sex with this woman”? That would sound friendlier, less condemning, innocently incredulous, even?. It would not imply that she was accusing him of something he didn’t do. What if he had said, “I have not had sex with any woman, (except my wife).” That would sound downright chaste, and not at all accusatory. It would deflect from his blaming her, to his making a simple statement about himself.

In short, articles speak volumes.


Adjectives also matter. Let us take Greta Garbo as an example. She is often quoted as saying, or having said, “I want to be alone,” (or, with an accent – I vant tu bee alohne).

Later, much later, when she actually was alone, I think it might have been in a Vanity Fair article, she refuted this statement. She said: “I never said I wanted to be left alone, I said I wanted to be let alone. There is a difference.”

And indeed there is. What is the difference? If she says she wants to be let alone, it implies that people are pestering her, bothering her, crowding her. If she says she wants to be left alone, that means everyone – that she wants to be totally alone.

So, adjectives and verbs matter too.




Laura Marello has written eleven books. Guernica Editions published Laura Marello’s second novel Tenants of the Hotel Biron in 2012 and her first novel Claiming Kin in 2010. Her third novel, Maniac Drifter, is forthcoming with Guernica in 2016. Tailwinds Press published Marello’sThe Gender of Inanimate Objects and Other Stories in 2015; it is shorlisted for the Saroyan Prize. Balzac Robe, chapbook forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, June 25th.

She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, and a Fine Arts Work Center Provincetown Fellowship. She has benefited from residencies at MacDowell, Yaddo, Millay, Montalvo and Djerassi.   2nd Finalist in 2016 New Women’s Voices Award.


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