What’s the Difference Between Farther and Further?

Further v FartherA few weeks ago when I posted on the difference between conscious and conscience, Dana and Judy mentioned another troublesome pair: further and farther.  Well ladies, I’m here to clear up your confusion.

Maybe.  These words have been used interchangeably for hundreds of years.  No wonder we mix them up!  Looking up their definitions doesn’t help much.

Farther – from Middle English ferther

  • Adverb: at a greater distance; to a greater degree (farther down the hall)
  • Adjective: more distant (he dreamed of traveling to farther lands)

Further –from Middle English further

  • Adverb: farther, to a greater extent (Mom was further irritated by the interruption)
  • Verb: to promote or move forward (He worked hard to further his education)
  • Adjective: going or extending beyond; additional (We aimed for the further hills)
  • Sentence modifier: Further, I have no intention of giving you the car. 

But Webster’s Dictionary and Grammar Girl gave me a few tips to keep them straight.

When you’re talking about physical distance, use farther.  

(Memory trick: “far” is in “farther”.)

  • My goal was to run farther on the trail than I ever had before.

When you’re describing figurative distance, use further.

  • I will not discuss this with you further.

If you’re not sure, or physical distance isn’t clear (as in before we go any farther with this plan), use further.  But don’t sweat it.  Many reputable grammar resources, such as the Oxford English Dictionary, say it’s okay to use the words interchangeably.

So, Judy and Dana, you’re off the hook!

What other word pairs give you trouble?  I might use your suggestion for another post!  We can all learn together.

Be sure to check out my piece on the difference between e.g and i.e.



Vocab from the Bartimaeus Trilogy: Sycophantic

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday, a great meme for people who take the time to look up unknown words they come across in their reading.  Visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for links to more interesting vocab.

I’m listening to the audio book of The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud.  It’s well done. In one scene, the great djinni Bartimaeus beats up a lesser imp to obtain valuable information. Once Bartimaeus puts a bolder on top of the imp, he’s willing to talk.  I can’t remember the exact sentence my word appeared in, but it was something like,

After I had the information I needed, I grew tired of his sycophanic drivel.

See the amulet in the gargoyle's hand?

sycophantic \sik-ə-‘fant-ik\ adj from Greek sykophantes, informer; characterized by a sycophant, which is a servile, self-seeking flatterer; obsequious

In a Bible devotional I read, the author referred to Judas Iscariot as a sycophant.

Word Nerd Note: sycophantic is a synonym from another Wondrous Words Wednesday entry of mine: obsequious.

Word Nerd Workout

Think of a sycophantic character from books or movies.  Grima Wormtongue from The Two Towers is an excellent example.  Share your ideas in the comments.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!



Four Ways to Get Teens to Read

speakAt a recent swim meet, my friend Michelle and I discussed edgy YA novels like Speak and Looking for Alaska while our daughters rolled their eyes. One of their male teammates, sitting nearby with an iPod five inches from his face, glanced over at us.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t be discussing this in mixed company,” I said.

The boy shrugged.  “I don’t care.  I don’t read books.” He turned back to his screen.

Oh dear.  He doesn’t read?

This word nerd  has a new mission: get a book in this boy’s hands!

Teens have plenty to distract them from reading: school, sports, friends, and more gaming and social media options than any adult can keep track of.

Have you noticed how persistent these media are?  Clash of Clans can nag my son and he doesn’t mind, but if I dare to mention laundry that needs folding…

If we’re going to keep teens interested in pleasure reading, we have to be just as persistent as games and social media.

Four Strategies to Promote Pleasure Reading with Teens

  1. MalalaGive books as gifts.  Take teens to the library or book store (if you still have one in your town); bribe them with a sweet treat from the cafe if necessary.  Just get books in their hands!
  2. Many popular movies, including Mockingjay, If I Stay, and Insurgent are based on books. Challenge the teens you know to read the book before they see the movie. I’m offering to take my daughter’s friends to the theater to see Insurgent (and pay for their movie ticket- not the popcorn) if they read the book first.
  3. Don’t get stuck on books.  Graphic novels and magazines count as reading material but have more visual imagery and less text, making them less intimidating and more interesting than a 300 page novel.
  4. Find books that will interest them. If they have a hobby, find a non-fiction title about that. If they like sports, check out Mike Lupica.  Find inspiring stories about young adults who have made a difference in the world, such as I Am Malala.  

A Great Reading Resource

Next week is Teen Read Week.  Since 1998, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has sponsored reading activities at libraries during the third week of October to encourage teens to read for pleasure.

TeensTopTen_logoA fun part of the week is the TTT: Teens’ Top Ten.  Teens aged 12-18  vote for their favorite books from the past year. I’m too old to vote, but the TTT is a great resource for reading suggestions.  Find information about nominees, including book trailers, and vote at the Teens’ Top Reads post at DOGObooks.com.  Here are some of the nominees for 2014:

  • Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowel
  • The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
  • The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
  • Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
  • Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray
  • The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

I haven’t heard of half these books, so I’m excited to explore the list.  My eldest son enjoys Sanderson’s fantasy books.

And that boy from my daughter’s swim team?  He’s getting a copy of The Eye of Minds at the next meet.  It’s a thriller set in the virtual gaming world – hopefully that will hook him!

What are some other ways to encourage teens to read?  Which books or websites can you recommend?

Other places to look for YA lit:

Guys Read


Thanks for sharing!



Vocab from the Bartimaeus Trilogy: Amulet

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday, a meme for readers who want to learn more about the words they stumble across in their books.  Visit hostess Kathy at Bermuda Onion to find more interesting vocabulary.

See the amulet in the gargoyle's hand?

See the amulet in the gargoyle’s hand?

My word this week comes from the audiobook The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud.  It’s young adult magical fantasy. In the story, a young magician in training summons a powerful djinni named Bartimaeus to steal an amulet from a rival magician.

I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know what an amulet was.  Since it’s crucial to the book, I figured I’d better learn it!

Amulet \am-yə-lət\ noun from the Latin amuletum. A charm often inscribed with a magic incantation or symbol to aid the wearer or protect against evil (as disease or witchcraft).

Talisman is a synonym for amulet.  Here’s a photo of several amulets and talismans, thanks to Nathaniel_U at Flickr.


Photo credit: Nathan_u via Flickr CC-BY

Photo credit: Nathan_u via Flickr CC-BY


Here’s an Indian Amulet Necklace

Photo Credit InExtremiss via Flickr CC-BY

Photo Credit InExtremiss via Flickr CC-BY

Word Nerd Workout

Have you ever seen an amulet?  Do you have one yourself?

Word Nerd Announcement

Congratulations to Kathy, our meme hostess, for winning the prize for my Banned Books Week Giveaway.  She won a gift card to Barnes and Noble!  I’m sure she’ll use it well.  (And hopefully tell us about whatever she reads.)

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!


Spread the word on Twitter: Vocab from the Bartimaeus Trilolgy: amulet = a small object worn for protection via @juliatomiak

When to Use Conscience or Conscious

Conscience questionDo you ever have a brain lapse, and a spelling or grammar rule that you should have learned in third grade stumps you now at the age of…

Well, let’s just say it’s been many years since third grade.

I’m editing my YA manuscript for the ninth time (it’s got to be getting good by now, right?), and an issue stumped me.

  1. My protagonist struggles with her conscience / conscious, and she must choose between what she thinks is right and what she knows she wants.
  2. Near the end of the book she gets knocked unconscience/ unconscious and visits the ER.

Laugh at me if you must, but I had to look these words up to clarify which spelling to use in which instance.  I hope my experience will help you too.

conscious \’kän(t)-shəs\ from Latin com + scire to know

  • adjective = to be aware; to notice
  • noun = conciousness, alertness

conscience \’kän(t)-shən(t)s\ also from Latin com + scire to know; noun

  • the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong

Both words come from the same Latin root, so no wonder they confused me.  But I realized I tend to blow over the “n” sound in conscience, making these two words homophones when they aren’t.  They also are different parts of speech in their most common use.

So, now I know the difference, but I think I’m going to have to create a mnemonic device to help me remember.  Something like, conscience has an “n” to help you say “no”.

Please, tell me I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

Also, in the comments, prove your word nerd prowess and tell me which word, conscious or conscience, is appropriate for sentence 1 and 2 in my post.

Perks of Being a WallflowerBanned Books Celebration

I’m giving away a Barnes and Noble gift card to someone who comments on my Banned Books Week review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Stop by and comment by October 3, 2014 to enter.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!


Vocabulary from Half Broke Horses: Abscond

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday, a meme for people interested in learning new words.  Visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for links to more vocabulary boosters!

My word today comes from Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.  Walls has captured the authentic, wise, and humorous voice of her grandmother, Lily.  (What a delicate name for such a tough lady!)  Although I don’t choose non-fiction, I’m enjoying this “true life novel.”

Lily’s father loved writing and

his sentences were long and extravagant, filled with words like “mendacious” and “abscond” that most of the folks in Toyah would need a dictionary to understand.

I tackled mendacious last week (who remembers what it means?  Think tabloids.)  Now for abscond, definitely one of those I’ve heard before but can’t remember.

Half Broke Horsesabscond \ab-skänd\ verb from Latin abscondere to hide away, from abs + condere to conceal; to depart secretly and hide oneself; to go away and take something that does not belong to you


My daughter attempted to abscond with the Snickers in her bedroom, but I followed the trail of wrappers and caught her.

Word nerd note: Condere means to “conceal” and is the base for “condiment” – interesting!

Word Nerd Workout

Complete the analogy:

bivouac : take shelter :: abscond : ____________

Find the relationship between the first two words/phrases and create a parallel relationship in the second pair.

Spread the (word nerd) word on Twitter: Word Nerd Word: abscond = to depart secretly and hide oneself via @juliatomiak 

Banned Book Giveaway

I’m giving away a Barnes and Noble gift card to one lucky reader who comments on my Banned Books Week review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Stop by and comment by Friday, Oct 3.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me,