BizWritingTip reader: “I understand these words may now be interchangeable. Could you comment on whether this is true? I always understood that farther was used for literal references, for example, for geographic distance. The word further is used when the reference is figurative, for example, ‘I am further along in the process.’ Your thoughts would be welcome.”
BizWritingTip response: This question is quite interesting, Tim. My initial response was “of course, you are right.” Further is used for an abstract distance and indicates “to a greater degree” or “to a greater extent.”
I wish I was further along in writing the proposal.
What further proof do you need?
Farther refers to actual distance.
The new office location is farther from my home than I would like.
How much farther do we have to travel?
But, in doing an additional check with my dictionary and grammar books, I found that some reference books now consider these words interchangeable.
The Oxford Canadian Dictionary states that “farther” is a variant of “further.”
Frankly, I intend to stick with the traditional way of writing farther and further. However, if you can’t keep them straight, I don’t imagine many readers will call you on it.