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General Writing and Grammar Help/Dear Ted, I'm not sure if I should use the word "a" or "the" in the following sentence, or if both ways are grammatically correct? The journalist wants to shine "a / the" spotlight on corruption.

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Question
Dear Ted,
I'm not sure if I should use the word "a" or "the" in the following sentence, or if both ways are grammatically correct?
The journalist wants to shine "a / the" spotlight on corruption.

Answer
Dear Glen:

I'm not sure if I should use the word "a" or "the" in the following sentence, or
if both ways are grammatically correct?
The journalist wants to shine "a / the" spotlight on corruption.

*** Both are correct.  If the journalist is just beginning his investigation, one can surmise that no spotlight has been shown at all.  So, in this instance, he would be shining A spotlight on corruption.

However, if the journalist has already been "spotlighting" some problems, he might consider aiming his spotlight on the additional problem of corruption.  In that case, THE spotlight would be used to highlight the additional problem.  

In other words, if the journalist has been focusing on a problem and wants to add corruption as an additional focus, use THE spotlight.  If he is just starting to examine the corruption problem, you would use A spotlight.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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