LawProse Lesson #135: Farther vs. further

LawProse Lesson #135: Farther vs. further

Farther vs. further The best way to handle these terms (both comparative degrees of far) is to use farther literally and further figuratively.      Farther refers to physical distances {Timothy ran farther up the street than Susan} {From Dallas, it’s farther to Chicago than to St. Louis}. Further, on the other hand, refers to figurative or metaphorical distances {The court refused to extend the broad definition any further} {Parents who are further down the parenting road may reassure the parents of newborn babies}. The AP Stylebook states that further refers to an extension of time or degree {The police will look further into the matter now that a new witness has come forward}. And according to The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, further also means “additional or continued” {The law clerk should do further research on the issue of attorney-client privilege}. The superlatives — farthest and furthest — follow the same patterns. Furthermost is a fairly rare equivalent of farthest {The biographies are located in the furthermost [read farthest] corner of the library}. It’s sometimes misused for furthest {Firing employees was the furthermost [read furthest] thing from the CEO’s mind}. But because furthermost is antiquated and misleading, it’s better to avoid it. Farthest is much clearer. Some grammarians don’t strictly distinguish between farther and further. In The Writer’s Art, James Kilpatrick said that “except where physical distance is plainly implied (and of course in the use of further as a verb) the words are interchangeable. I would employ one or the other depending upon the sound of the sentence.” And according to Philip Gooden, “Farther means the same as further, and is preferred by some people when physical distance is the topic . . . . Since further is acceptable in all contexts, stick to this spelling if in doubt.” But the differentiation between farther and further is well established, and educated readers know the difference. If you are uncertain whether a distance is physical or figurative, recast the sentence. Consult the sources below for further reading on this subject. Sources: Garner’s Modern American Usage 346 (3d ed. 2009). Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 353 (3d ed. 2011). The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style § 12.3, at 276 (3d ed. 2013). The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 103 (2013). Allan M. Siegal & William G. Connolly, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage 129 (rev. ed. 1999). James J. Kilpatrick, The Writer’s Art (1984). Philip Gooden, Who’s Whose: A No-Nonsense Guide to Easily Confused Words 117 (2004). Thanks to D’Andra Millsap Shu and Richard H. Stern for suggesting this topic.

Live seminars this year with Professor Bryan A. Garner: Advanced Legal Writing & Editing

Attend the most popular CLE seminar of all time. More than 215,000 people—including lawyers, judges, law clerks, and paralegals—have benefited since the early 1990s. You'll learn the keys to professional writing and acquire no-nonsense techniques to make your letters, memos, and briefs more powerful.

You'll also learn what doesn't work and why—know-how gathered through Professor Garner's unique experience in training lawyers at the country's top law firms, state and federal courts, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.

Professor Garner gives you the keys to make the most of your writing aptitude—in letters, memos, briefs, and more. The seminar covers five essential skills for persuasive writing:

  • framing issues that arrest the readers' attention;
  • cutting wordiness that wastes readers' time;
  • using transitions deftly to make your argument flow;
  • quoting authority more effectively; and
  • tackling your writing projects more efficiently.

He teaches dozens of techniques that make a big difference. Most important, he shows you what doesn't work—and why—and how to cultivate skillfulness.

Register to reserve your spot today.

Have you wanted to bring Professor Garner to teach your group? Contact us at for more information about in-house seminars.

Scroll to Top