Bewitched, Bothered by Between
“And Shutterfly expects full-year revenue to be between $903 million to $920 million.”
That sentence was in an investment newsletter email. It is another example of an awful grammar error that has become endemic in recent years. Can you spot it? It screams “illiterate.”
Is there anything more grating to the ear than between such-and-such TO whatever? It doesn’t make sense. Obviously, it’s BETWEEN such-and-such AND whatever. Or, FROM such-and-such TO whatever. Yet the between-to combination appears frequently in my much respected local newspaper and is heard increasingly on national radio and TV.
In instances such as the above example, “between” requires two items, connected by the word “and.” (Note that the period is inside the quote marks. Whether the quoted material is a complete sentence, a phrase, a single word, or anything else, the period and comma always go inside the quote marks. More on that later.)
Don’t look for guidance in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Among three examples of use of the word “between” that it provides are: “talks between the three” (a quote from Time), and “divided between his four grandchildren.” Excuse me, dear dictionary, but when more than two are involved, the correct word is “among”: “talks AMONG the three, and “divided AMONG his four grandchildren.”
Am I claiming to know more than Merriam-Webster’s here? In a word, yup. (Okay, “yup” is not a word. Hey, I don’t claim to know everything.)
Getting back to the placement of the period and comma relative to quote marks: I bet a guy $10 that the two went inside. “He’d been successful in business and worked as a governor’s assistant, and was certain he knew more about the art of writing than a lowly, 25-year newspaperman. I actually wanted to bet everything each of us owned, but he wasn’t that confident. I went to a bookstore and checked six style references, including the Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (it’s correct sometimes), Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, and The New York Public Library Writer’s Guide to Style and Usage. Reporting back to my betting opponent, I informed him that all six agreed with me. (I let him keep the $10. It was the principal of the thing – I mean principle.)