Further vs. Farther


Henry Ford was a very meticulous and accomplished man. I know this, because I grew up in Michigan, and the Ford story, as well as Ransom Eli Olds’, was an addendum to the New Testament, Torah, and any other holy book you can name. That stated, I cannot imagine Mr. Ford signing off on any advertising campaign so grammatically incorrect as the one now blasted on the airwaves and in every other medium.

“Ford: Go Further.”

Really?

Oh, please. The brain trusts who put those words together should have researched further to learn that what they are asking potential customers to do is “Go More.” “Go Additional” is just too painful to say. It is hard enough for me to type, because every fiber of my being wants to do a handstand on the delete key.

I shouldn’t be so harsh on those ill-educated copy writers, though, because the further/farther error is made so often and by so many people who should know better, teachers and professors included, that the mistake goes nearly undetected.

Except by me.

There is a common reason why people mix up the words, and it has more to do with speaking than writing. “Further” sounds better. It sounds intelligent. British, even, and we all know how entranced Americans are with accents, especially British ones. The spoken “further” brings to mind the sound of the classic movies of the ’40s when actors and actresses demonstrated extremely affected accents that were British-ish, kind of European, though not quite anything at all. The effect they were going for was classy and intelligent and that’s the impression the sound of “further” seems to invoke. For the speaker, anyway, but not always the listener.

Another reason people confuse the words is that they are so similar on the page as well as to the ear. Okay, I can accept that, but at some point, wouldn’t you as the speaker or writer want to figure out which word you should be using?

Since dictionaries and thesauri rarely grace home or office shelves anymore and online versions more often reflect colloquial usages rather than proper, I’m going to give you an easy way to remember which word you should use.

If you are talking about distance, use farther.

If you are talking about anything else, use further. Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to write that, really. Okay, I did, but what I meant to get across to you is that, typically, when people say or write “further,” they mean “farther.”

Think, “furthermore” when you are tempted to use “further.” To do something further is to do something more. The “-more” in “furthermore” is your clue.

If you use “go,” you are talking about movement, which implies distance, which means you use “farther.” Ford wants people to use their vehicles to actually go farther as well as use their minds to go deeper into their imaginations to see riding off into the sunset in their new Ford whatever. To “think outside the box” is to let your mind go outside your normal strictures and think up something new. That’s a distance. That’s a virtual movement. That’s a time to use “farther,” not “further.”

Please, don’t make me explain that if you have to go three more exits before you get to a rest stop that you have to go three exits “farther,” not “further.” The pain would be unbearable.

Now, to discover more information on a subject is to find “further” information. Information gathered on a subject can “further” explain something. You’re talking “additions to” and “more.”

So, last time: Farther: Distance, Further: More.

NO PART OF THIS ARTICLE MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION, ATTRIBUTION, AND LINK-BACK.

Copyright © 2013 Diane Faulkner.  All rights reserved worldwide, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Reproduction or transmission of any part of this work by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, beyond that permitted by Copyright Law, without the express permission of the author, is prohibited.

Text:  Copyright © 2013 Diane Faulkner.  All rights reserved worldwide.  Crabby Copy Editor™ and related trademarks appearing on this website are the property of Diane Faulkner.

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