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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Often, 'another' can bite the dust | Barry Wood, The Taunton Daily Gazette

Writing columnist Wood comments on the various uses of another:
“Another” appears to have become one of those “comfort” words, something a writer throws into a sentence to feel better about it.
Often, it has no real function. At other times, it is asked to do something it isn’t designed for.
He gives examples of its correct, prime role: conveying the sense of "one more," including:
And let’s have another piece of pie.
Another one bites the dust.
And he gives examples of its incorrect role, meaning "an additional." In this sentence, for example, another should be replaced with additional:
The House approved a special appropriation of $200 billion for the war in Iraq and another $50 billion for hurricane relief efforts.
Wood explains that for another to be used correctly in a sentence like that, the two amounts must be equivalent. So, if the House had been generous and caring enough to give $200 billion for hurricane relief efforts, "another $200 billion" would have been correct.

And as implied in the headline for Wood's column, there are times when using another isn't necessary. He provides some examples.

Finally, Wood also notes Associated Press style on the differing meanings of one another and each other.

According to AP style:
Two people look at each other.
More than two look at one another.
Either phrase may be used when the number is indefinite: We help each other. We help one another.
Wood notes that not all writing guides feel it's necessary to distinguish between the two phrases; not all readers know the difference. While that's probably true, I still think it's worth preserving the differing meanings.

This is a subject for another blog post, but if we start ignoring the precise meanings of similar words and phrases -- and just lumping all the meanings into the common words, might we lose something in the clarity of our writing?

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