Thursday, May 29, 2008

"The latter" with two, "the last" with three or more examples

From an editorial in today's New York Times:
"There are several kinds of Washington memoirs: “I Reveal the Honest Truth,” a kiss-up-and-tell designed to settle scores (nod to honesty optional). “I Was There at the Start,” designed to make the author appear to be the linchpin of history. And, most tedious: “I Knew It Was a Terrible Mistake, but I Didn’t Mention It Until I Got a Book Contract.” Scott McClellan’s memoir is the latest entry in the latter genre."

Oops! That should be "the last genre."

Rule No. 198 from Guide to Composition (1919) by Royster and Thompson:
In speaking of more than two persons or things, prefer any [one] and the last to either and the latter.

(Possible) She was smaller that either of her three sisters.

(Preferable) She was smaller than any [one] of her three sisters.

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