Different from or different than?
This one always makes me stop and think. Should I write different from or different than?
By itself, the choice won’t affect whether someone buys the widget you’re selling, but it’s one of those little details that can add just a smidgen of extra clarity to your writing. In the aggregate, such things can improve your message and affect the response to your copy.
So, which one is correct? Different from or different than? Here’s what Elements of Style says:
Here logic supports established usage: one thing differs from another, hence, different from. Or, other than, unlike.
So that’s that. Different from is correct. But hold on, is it that simple? The University of Houston suggests that different than may sometimes be correct.
Here’s how they explain it:
Use different from for simple comparisons, as in comparing two persons or things.
Ex.: My car is different from (not than) her car.
Ex.: The book I bought is different from the one sold in the bookstore.
Because of increased use, different than is sometimes considered acceptable in American English. When in doubt, just use different from, as it is preferred by most people. According to the American Heritage Dictionary’s usage panel (1992), different than is acceptable only if the words following different than make up a clause—especially if the clause is elliptical (referring to an aforementioned context without restating it). Here’s an example:
Ex.: It seems so different than Paris.
In this example, if different from were used, Paris, the city, would be the object of comparison. Using different than creates a subtle distinction in meaning. Since different than is used, the clause following different than is interpreted as elliptical and suggests “the way things were in Paris” or “than Paris was” or “what happened in Paris.” If you have doubt when to use different than, you might just use different from following the parallel construction rule.
Clear as mud, right? Well, if you think about it, it does make sense. So noodle it for a while. But when in doubt, just use different from and you can’t go wrong.
No related posts.