Further vs. Farther: Which one is it?

How much further do you have to go before you finish your manuscript? Or, wait—writerly distraction—is it how much farther? How much farther do you have to go before you finish your manuscript? I’m so confused. In case you are too, here’s Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty to the rescue:

“Further” Versus “Farther”

The quick and dirty tip is to use “farther” for physical distance and “further” for metaphorical, or figurative, distance. It’s easy to remember because “farther” has the word “far” in it, and“far” obviously relates to physical distance.

For example, imagine Squiggly and Aardvark are flying to a galaxy far, far away, but Squiggly gets bored and starts mercilessly bugging Aardvark. “How much farther?'” he keeps asking in despair.”

Did you hear that? Squiggly used “farther” because he was asking about physical distance.

If Aardvark gets frustrated with Squiggly, which he surely will, he could respond, “If you complain further, I’m going to shoot you out the airlock.”

Aardvark used “further” because he isn’t talking about physical distance, he’s talking about a figurative distance: the extent of Squiggly’s complaining.

More “Further” Versus “Farther” Tips

If you can’t decide which one to use, you’re safer using further because farther has some restrictions.

Sometimes the quick and dirty tip doesn’t work because it’s hard to decide whether you’re talking about physical distance. For example, Lisa asked about the sentence “I’m further along in my book than you are in yours.” You could think of it as a physical distance through the pages and use “farther,” or as a figurative distance through the story and use “further.”

And what if you stop someone in the middle of a sentence to interject something? Do you say “before we go any further,” or “before we go any farther”?

The good news is that in ambiguous cases it doesn’t matter which word you choose. Although careful writers will try to stick with the distinction between “further” and “farther,” the Oxford English Dictionary, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and a number of other sources say that, in most cases, it’s fine to use “further” and “farther” interchangeably, especially when the distinction isn’t clear. People have been using them interchangeably for hundreds of years, and a few experts don’t even follow the distinction. For example, Garner’s Modern American Usage notes that in British English, although it’s more common for speakers to use “farther” for physical distance, they will regularly use either “further” or “farther” for figurative distance (1).

How to Use “Furthermore”

It is important to remember that “farther” has a tie to physical distance and can’t be used to mean “moreover” or “in addition.”

We’re nearly out of fuel. Further, there’s an asteroid belt ahead.

A trick I use is to write “furthermore” when I mean “in addition.”

Furthermore, I hope you locked the door when we left.

“Furthermore” is different enough from “further” to keep me from confusing it with “farther.”


Finally, if you’re interested in the history of usage, “further” is the older word and according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (2), it was 1906 when the first usage guide called on writers to make a distinction between “further” and “farther.”

Quick and Dirty Tip

The quick and dirty tip is that “farther” relates to physical distance and “further”  relates to figurative distance. If you can’t decide which one to use, you’re safer using “further” because “farther” has some restrictions, and if you tend to get confused, try using “furthermore” instead of “further.”

1. Garner, B. Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 346.
2. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1994, p. 430.

Source:  Fogarty, Mignon. “Further versus Farther.” Web blog post. Quick and Dirty Tips. Grammar Girl, 22 April 2010. Web. 12 April 2016.


Periods & Parentheses

What the heck happens when a parenthesis (or is it parenthesi? Nope. Singular = parenthesis, plural = parentheses) occurs at the end of sentence? Does the punctuation go inside or outside? Maybe you’re already clear on this, but it’s always made me wonder.

paren.jpgWell, according to Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl to you and me), it depends. She says:

When a parenthetical statement falls at the end of a sentence, the placement of the terminal punctuation depends on whether the words inside the parentheses are a complete sentence.

If the words inside the parentheses aren’t a complete sentence, the period, question mark, or exclamation point that ends the sentence goes after the parenthesis:

  • Squiggly likes chocolate (and nuts).
  • Could Aardvark bring home candy (quickly)?

If the words inside the parentheses are a complete sentence, the period, question mark, or exclamation point that ends the sentence goes inside the parenthesis:

  • Bring chocolate. (Squiggly likes sweets.)
  • Buy candy. (Bring it quickly!)

There you have it! And it’s actually not as complicated as I expected. 😉

Source:  Fogarty, Mignon. “Periods and Parentheses.” Web blog post. Quick and Dirty Tips. Grammar Girl, 21 February 2011. Web. 08 April 2016.
Image: Helvetica Paintings: ( ) Parentheses, Shane Becker at Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

Who’s Moving Where?

If you haven’t seen this amazing resource, created and maintained by editor Harold Underdown, you’re missing out. Not only does Underdown list information on staff changes in the publishing world, but he orders it by date and color codes it, too. (I know, right?) As he states, “The latest information is added at the top. Companies losing or laying off staff are coded in red, while those adding staff or filling vacancies are in green.”

Great stuff, right? There’s even more. Imprints! New imprints are listed as well, with hotlinks for more information. Once you’ve gotten all you can from that page, click around the whole site. There’s a TON of good information. This is big, people! BIG! What are you still doing here? You have work to do!

Harold Underdown, “Who’s Moving Where? News and Staff Changes at Children’s Book Publishers,” Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children’s Books: The Purple Crayon (blog), May 2017, http://www.underdown.org/chchange.htm.