Wednesday, September 21, 2005

From 'Between' to 'And'

As I said in "Lapsing Into a Comma," it's silly to insist that the "between ... and" construction is inherently non-inclusive -- if you write about something happening between 1972 and 1974, I'm not one of those people who will sniff, "So it was 1973?"

Still, I keep those sniffers in mind when I'm editing, and I routinely do change "between ... and" to "from ... to" or simply "to." (I maintain that "from" should be left out when it results in something like "a sentence of from 10 to 20 years." I don't of-from.)

Bolstering my case against the sniffers is a construction I recently came across, one that demands "between ... and":

He said the seller acquired the coin between 1856 and 1858.
You can't very well say he acquired it from 1856 to 1858, and you can't very well insist that the phrase equals "in 1857."

While I'm on the topic, a few hyphen notes:

  • A "from" requires a "to." None of this "from 1972-1974" stuff.
  • Even worse is a mixing of the "from" and "between" constructions, as in "between 1972 to 1974" or "between 1972-1974."
  • The hyphen is fine when no such external force is present. You can have a 1980-1984 tenure or even a situation "in 1980-1984."
  • Strictly a style point, but I like "1980-1984" rather than "1980-84" now that we're in the 2000s.


    Shepcat said...

    As a means of clarifying inclusion, how do you feel about "from 1972 through 1974"?

    Stephen Jones said...

    Does one use 'from' with through.
    Is it Come any day from Monday through Thursday?
    Come any day Monday through Thursday.?
    Not being an American I can't be that sure.

    Krupa said...

    Bill, I know you're probably not just sitting around waiting for me to stroke your ego, but I love this blog.

    MuPu said...

    This is a great site, Bill. It's obvious that you put a lot of time and effort into this.

    Permit me to stray to your hyphen notes. I want to speak on behalf of my largely ignored friend, N. Dash, who only wants to help people solve their number-ranging problems.

    Setting your newspaper hat aside for a moment, the en dash (as you know, but probably don't care) is used in most other typeset material to indicate "from ... through ..." (or the excessive "from ... up to and including ...").

    This little character deserves more respect and promotion. The en dash should be required material in any creative writing class.

    I love its subtlety, its subliminal effect. It's not just a finishing device or a visual flourish to be inserted by the publisher; it's part of the flavor of the writing, the attitude of the writer.

    If you were to analyze the yellow stickies on my cluttered desk, you would find sesquihyphenation even in my handwritten notes. It's therapeutic. It's easy on the eyes.

    It has much to offer the newspaper industry, too. But copy editors swat at it like a fly! If all were right in the world, the en dash would be making headlines like a corduroy pillow.

    (I still haven't seen your books, but I'm guessing that you use en dashes there without actually mentioning them.)

    Okay, I feel a tear welling up in my eye, so I'd better move on.

    Your expression "in 1980-84" has me stumped. Are you saying: "in nineteen eighty, nineteen eighty-four" or "in nineteen eighty to nineteen eighty-four"? Do you have an example for us?

    noneemac said...

    All the way through this post, from ‘Sea to shining sea” to “Between a rock and a hard place,” I kept wondering whether the sniffers out there were also the chief promulgators of the false range. Please feel free to revisit that wonderful topic (or was it a rant?) between now and the end of the day.

    sixten said...

    "Your expression "in 1980-84" has me stumped."


    What do I win?

    noneemac said...

    Talk about a fastidious palate!

    I received a postcard this week from a friend who just returned from a visit to the San Diego Zoo. The card features Ailuropoda melanoleuca. The explanatory text offers the following insight (bold emphasis mine) into its eating habits:

    Holding a bunch of bamboo leaves in one paw, the giant panda will chew the leaves very carefully. The stem is chewed only partially and the rest discarded. It will eat stems and new shoots from March and June and concentrate on leaves the rest of the year.

    Eats shoots and leaves, indeed!

    ACM said...

    I like "1980-1984" rather than "1980-84" now that we're in the 2000s.

    I liked it better before the 2000s as well.