BizWritingTip reader: “Are ‘former’ and ‘latter’ still good words to use in the business world?”
BizWritingTip response: Former and latter are both adjectives. They should only be used when referring to two people or things. Former refers to the first of the two things mentioned. Latter is used for the last item.
I can meet you at the main or the branch office, but I prefer the former. (I want to meet at the main office.)
I can meet you at the main or the branch office, but I prefer the latter. (I really want to meet at the branch office.)
Note: These words can only be used for two items. If you are discussing more than two, use first or last.
The conference can be held in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. I recommend the first. (Montreal is recommended.)
I recommend the last. (Vancouver is preferred.)
Note: In my own writing, I avoid these words. Although they are acceptable and well recognized, they force the reader to go back over the sentence to interpret the message. I would rather repeat the word so the reader can scan the information quickly and get a clear message.
I can meet you at the main or the branch office, but I prefer the main office.