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Former or Latter?

"Former" means first and "latter" means last, but are these words too confusing to use?

By
Mignon Fogarty,

Former or Latter?

 

"Latter" means "last" (note that both start with "l"), and "former" means "first" (note that both start with "f").

  • Aardvark found canned tuna and chocolates in the cupboard. Squiggly craved the latter. (Squiggly wants chocolate.)

  • Aardvark found canned tuna and chocolates in the cupboard. Squiggly craved the former. (Squiggly wants tuna.)

Only use these terms when distinguishing between two choices, and use them sparingly because they confuse many people. Even if your readers know the meaning, they have to go back to the previous sentence to find the answer.

Avoid the words in speech because listeners can't go back and review what you said in the previous sentence (and if they try, they'll probably miss what you say next).

 

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