Sunday, September 19, 2010

Farther vs. Further: Going the Distance

Last week, two readers asked me via e-mail to explain the difference between farther and further. In common usage, the two words are used fairly interchangeably. (Lynch's Guide to Grammar & Style comes right out and says, "Don't get upset if you can't keep it straight; no one will notice.")

Yet it's worth noting the distinction between the two words. To illustrate this difference, I've taken this screen grab from a California job search site called

Where does this job site go wrong? Its tagline promises both a shorter commute and a better job. Since the latter implies traveling a metaphoric distance (going further in your career) as opposed to a physical distance (going farther from home), the tagline should use further.

Quick rule:
  • Use farther for physical distances. I chased my dog farther than two miles. London is farther away than New York.
  • Use further for figurative distances, as in the sense of taking something to the next level. Moving to another town saved his family from further embarrassment. You're welcome to pursue this matter further with the manager. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Work closer. Go further.


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