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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
1-minute read

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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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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