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.”


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.


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Two syllables or three? Athletes and veterans

Have you ever noticed that people who cannot pronounce “athlete” typically cannot pronounce “veteran”? This seems especially true of anyone in the media, more so when the speaker is a sports broadcaster.

Yes, yes, I am an oversensitive soul when it comes to words, but you have to admit, when you listen to someone who is supposed to be a professional mispronounce words that are basic to h/her field, you hear “Idiot!” echo in your head. I know you do. I can’t be the only one with that particular soundtrack blaring between the ears.

The words I want to hear are “ath’-lete” and “vet’-er’-an.” Instead, I hear, “ath’-uh-lete” and “veh’-trun.”

Oh, god. Kill me now. I just cannot take it anymore.

In some small way, I can almost forgive sports broadcasters, the color announcers anyway, their mispronunciation of “athlete,” because many of those talking heads are former athletes with little to no actual broadcasting or journalism backgrounds, and I’m certain few – if any – ever majored in English. The pros, however, have no excuse, and as professionals, it is their responsibility to immediately correct their less studied co-hosts, post-broadcast or on a break, so everyone is correct. It is a matter of professionalism and professional courtesy. When I started in radio back in 1982 at 1390 WGWY – AM, it was my responsibility to not only get my stories correct, but also to ensure I communicated correctly. Even back then, we knew that our communication styles were not only a reflection on ourselves and our stations, but also our communities. It was, and still is, a broadcaster’s/journalist’s responsibility to use correct English, grammar, form. People, we knew and we know, repeat and reflect what they hear and see, and we are supposed to set an example for our communities. If we don’t know how to pronounce something, we are supposed to snag a pronunciation guide, a.k.a. Oxford American English Dictionary and Thesaurus, and find what we need. When we didn’t follow through, we heard about it from our station manager. It’s not that we ever had to sound snooty or formal, that was never the point. It’s that we were to issue our reports in the best form. Mispronunciations, especially those done for the sake of sounding “cool,” took all of us down a notch, and that’s a great way to lose listeners or at least create some haters.

Now, for the “V” word, my bone of contention, I must admit, extends only to those who are younger than the average World War II vet. I’ve had the privilege to listen to some of those people share their stories. The men I heard rarely had complete educations, so I could hardly begrudge them how they spoke. It’s the people who I know are educated, and again, especially my colleagues in the media, who not only mispronounce “veteran” as “veh-trun,” but they do so for effect, that earn my ire. Their pronunciation is an affectation used to make the speaker sound as though s/he is “one of the people.” As written, that might not seem to be such a bad thing, but when you realize that being “one of the people” means the reporter is trying to get down to the people’s level and be “one of them,” you understand that the mispronunciation is an actual insult to the audience. Think about that the next time you hear your favorite broadcaster say “veh-trun.”