Tag Archives: usage

Usage: Farther Vs. Further

Historically, farther and further have been used interchangeably when referring to distance, but their definitions are diverging. Most usage guides, including Chicago and AP, distinguish between the two, reserving farther when referring to physical distances and further for figurative distances, measuring quantity or degree:

When I graduated from college, I moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles. My sister moved even farther, to Honolulu.

Although she is more than four years younger than me, for a while my sister was further along in her studies than I.

It’s easy to remember to use farther when referring to physical distances because it starts with the word far.

However, sometimes it can be unclear whether the distance being described is physical or figurative:

Tanya got to the stable before her brother and so is farther/further into her ride than he.

Whether to use farther or further depends on how you look at it: Is Tanya physically farther along the trail? Or figuratively further into her ride? In cases like these, where the distinction isn’t clear, farther and further can still be used interchangeably.

Further can also be used to modify an entire sentence:

Further, Tanya was riding at a brisk trot, so she returned to the stable long before her brother did.

In cases where you could just as easily use furthermore, use further, not farther.

Do you have a question about usage? Let me know, and I’ll include it in a future installment of Mots Justes’ ongoing series.

Resources

Chicago Manual of Style, The. 15th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

“farther.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010. Merriam-Webster Online. 18 February 2010
<http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/farther>

Fogarty, Mignon, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2008.

Goldstein, Norm, ed. The Associated Press Stylebook. 42nd ed. New York: Basic Books, a Member of the Perseus Books Group, 2007.

Hacker, Diana, The Bedford Handbook for Writers, 3rd ed. Boston: St. Martin’s Press: 1991.

Strunk Jr., William, and White, E.B. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 2000.

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Usage: Beg the Question

You can beg for forgiveness. You can beg for mercy. You can beg for money, especially in these tough economic times. But whatever you do, don’t beg the question. And don’t use “beg the question” incorrectly in your writing, either.

Let me explain: The phrase “beg the question” refers to a logical fallacy in which a writer attempts to prove a claim by restating the claim itself, often in different language. For example, consider this hypothetical argument adapted from a practice prompt I use with my students preparing for the ACT:

Locker checks should not be allowed in high schools because authorities should not search students’ lockers.

In this (again, hypothetical) thesis, I haven’t offered a reason for my argument—what I call the “because clause”—but rather simply restated my stand, that locker checks should not be allowed. Avoid begging the question in your rhetorical writing.

Also avoid using the phrase “beg the question” incorrectly. Much too often, it is used in lieu of “raise the question”:

School administrators are determined to institute mandatory weekly locker checks, which begs raises the question, what right do they have?

Really, begging the question should be avoided at all costs, both as a rhetorical device and as a phrase in your writing, and at least one website is dedicated to ending BTQ abuse.

Resource

Hacker, Diana, The Bedford Handbook for Writers, 3rd ed. Boston: St. Martin’s Press: 1991.

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Usage Thursday: Top Nine Misused Words

One of my oldest, dearest friends uses the word irregardless. She is smart and highly educated, yet insists on using this non-word. Should I correct her? Cracked.com says yes and lists eight other words that don’t mean what we think they do with advice on whether it’s worth insisting people use them the right way. Although the site’s presentation is crude, the explanations of how we’re using peruse, ironic, pristine, nonplussed, bemused, enormity, plethora, and deceptively incorrectly and what they really mean are clear and entertaining. Do you have any to add?

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Usage Thursday: E.G. and I.E.

The abbreviated Latin terms e.g. and i.e. are often confused and used incorrectly. E.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example.” I.e. stands for id est, which means “that is” or, put another way, “in other words.” The two abbreviations have distinct meanings and should not be used interchangeably:

Jeff and I are traveling to Minnesota to visit some of our old stomping grounds—e.g., our old apartment and the movie theater where we worked.

Because e.g. means “for example,” the apartment and the movie theater are just examples of some of the places we visited; we visited other places as well.

Jeff and I are traveling to Minnesota to visit some of our old stomping grounds—i.e., our old apartment and the movie theater where we worked.

Here, because i.e. means “that is,” the apartment and the movie theater are the only places we visited; mentioning them provides further explanation.

To borrow a “quick and dirty tip” from Grammar Girl, you can remember the difference between e.g. and i.e. by associating the abbreviations with their English meanings:

e.g. →for example
i.e. →that is, in other words

Although I’ve used italics in my discussion here for clarification, don’t italicize e.g. and i.e. in your writing. Yes, they are abbreviations for words in a foreign language, which usually are italicized, but they’ve become so standard in English that they no longer need to be. Do, however, put a period after each letter—they are abbreviations, after all—and always follow e.g. and i.e. with a comma.

Resources

Chicago Manual of Style, The. 15th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Fogarty, Mignon, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2008.

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Usage Thursday: Complement Vs. Compliment

Always on the hunt for new opportunities, I had a job interview yesterday that included a pretty rigorous, three-part editing test. The first part was timed: I had thirty minutes to rewrite thirteen sentences that had been rejected from real marketing materials. The second part was two pages of copyediting questions ranging from choosing the right word (to vs. too vs. two) to correctly placing an apostrophe in singular and plural possessives, to punctuating sentences, to not only correcting grammar but explaining why it needed to be corrected, to explaining the difference between sentences that differed only by a comma (I included all the departments including artists and engravers vs. I included all the departments, including artists and engravers). The third part involved comparing cover proofs. It was gratifying to realize that other people care about this stuff as much as I do!

Anyway, one of the questions that gave me (slight) pause was a sentence that asked me to choose between complement and compliment. Both can be used as either nouns or verbs, and they are pronounced exactly the same. In fact, they differ in spelling by only one letter.

A compliment, with an i, is an expression of flattery or praise:

The human resources representative paid me a compliment on how I performed on the editing test.

The verb to compliment means to flatter or praise:

She also complimented my thorough examination of the cover proof.

A complement, with an e, however, is something that completes:

My skills as a writer were a complement to my experience as an editor.

And the verb to complement means to supplement or complete:

For this particular position, my background as a musician complemented my resume.

Grammar Girl has a nifty trick for remembering the difference: “Things that complement each other often complete each other.” Both complement and complete are spelled with e’s and no i’s.

Do you have a question about usage? Let me know, and we’ll discuss it in a future installment of Usage Thursday.

Resources

“complement.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 6 August 2009 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/complement>

“compliment.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 6 August 2009 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compliment>

Chicago Manual of Style, The. 15th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Fogarty, Mignon, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2008.

Goldstein, Norm, ed. The Associated Press Stylebook. 42nd ed. New York: Basic Books, a Member of the Perseus Books Group, 2007.

Hacker, Diana, The Bedford Handbook for Writers, 3rd ed. Boston: St. Martin’s Press: 1991.

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Usage Thursday: Loose Vs. Lose

I see loose confused with lose all the time, although more often in student papers and working drafts than in published material. It’s worth discussing here, as often when the mistake is corrected, the writer doesn’t understand what error he or she has made. Confusion arises because lose has an oo sound but not the double o spelling usually associated with that pronunciation.

Loose, pronounced loos with an s sound at the end, is an adjective that describes something that is not fastened or attached. It can also be used as a verb that means to let or make something loose.

Jim tied his pony to the fence with a loose knot.
Derrick loosed his horse into the corral.

On the other hand, lose, pronounced looz with a z sound at the end, is a verb that describes misplacing or being unable to find something or failing to win.

Don’t lose your ticket to the game.
Jim loses at one-on-one basketball to Derrick all the time.

Resources

“loose.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Merriam-Webster Online. 2 October 2008 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loose>.

“lose.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Merriam-Webster Online. 2 October 2008 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lose>.

Wilson, Kenneth G. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Bartleby.com. 2 October 2008 <http://www.bartleby.com/68/12/3712.html>.

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