Faster Then, A Speeding Bullet?

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Faster Then, a Speeding Bullet?

“God is in the details,” say some, and “The devil is in the details,” say others.  Whether it’s God or the devil, I can’t say, but I do know that details matter, especially in writing.

For example, take the difference between then and than.

Then is an adverb that tells when an event occurred.

When did it happen?  It happened then.

It may imply soon afterward.

First I saw her walking her dog. Then I saw her duck.

It is also used in logical statements, indicating in that case.

If you read this Writamin carefully, then you will not use then mistakenly.

Than is a conjunction. According to the dictionary, it introduces the second element in a comparison, following an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree.

She is taller than he is.

It also expresses exception, following an adjective or adverb

Who won the contest?  None other than Sam

It also sometimes shows a difference or distinction when introducing an adverbial clause

Paris was different than I’d thought it would be

As you can see, there is no case in which it is correct to write He is taller then me or it is different then what I expected. I see then and than mixed up often enough that I don’t think of these as typographical errors.

Remember: Then should not be used when making comparisons; the proper word is than.

Another detail that often gets bollixed is the use of the hyphen.  Hyphens glue words together.  Using them can be tricky, because the writer must know whether he is gluing words together or is actually writing a verb phrase.For example,

Call in

Call back

Check in

Check out

can all be used as verb phrases.

After I call in for my messages, I will call back the people who left word for me.

After we check in at the hotel, we will check out the night life.

However, these words can also be stuck together with hyphens and used as adjectives or nouns.

My call-in code is 1234; I enter it and my phone gives me all the call-back numbers I  need.

Our check-in procedure requires that each guest show photo identification; our check-out process is simpler.

When you use word sets that might need to be hyphenated, pause for a moment and ask yourself what you mean to say.  Use the hyphen to tell your reader which words to group together.

Now that we have covered these fine points, you know more than you knew before you checked in.

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