Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Once you see how illogical "false ranges" (as I call them) are, I hope you'll avoid them in your writing.

False ranges are ranges that don't truly represent a range or gamut. Here's one I just came across:

"New federal requirements have created a growing need for anyone with experience in health care* information technology, from IT specialists to medical-billing managers."

So, we have a range of workers from IT specialists to medical-billing managers—but who or what is included in this range? What about, say, medical transcriptionists? Are they within it?

I come across false ranges all the time: "from apples to ice cream," "from Hollywood to Capitol Hill," and so on. They bug.

This problem is another one of my "Who cares? We understand what it means!" problems, I know. But false ranges bug me because they're lazy—they let a writer seem to be providing more information than he or she is. (In the examples, the writer is providing two examples, not an abundance of them, as the "from ... to" construction suggests.) Or they're just unnecessary—in a sentence such as "The entire dinner was delicious, from the first course to the last," everything after the comma is redundant.

I like true ranges, and I like ironic ranges—for instance, Dorothy Parker's famous comment on Katharine Hepburn's acting in The Lake: "She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B."

* The term "health care" is never hyphenated, per our style guide.

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