Between now and the end of the semester — and that’s not far away — I’d like everyone to master the difference between two constructions commonly used to indicate ranges, especially in business stories that report changes in revenue and earnings over time.
One student wrote this semester:
The latest data on the world cocoa economy from the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) show that between 2002 and 2012 cocoa production rose at an annual average rate of over 3 percent.
As written, this sentence says production rose at that rate from 2003 to 2011 — the years between 2002 and 2012. Picture these years as a shelf of books:
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Between 2002 and 2012 indicates those nine years literally between 2002 and 2012; it does not include the bookends in boldface. To do so, as the writer intended, use from . . . to:
The latest data . . . show that from 2002 to 2012 cocoa production rose at an annual average rate of over 3 percent.
In the same story:
In addition, sales of candies, chewing gum and chocolate in China rose 46 percent between 2007 and 2012.
It should have read:
In addition, sales of candies, chewing gum and chocolate in China rose 46 percent from 2007 to 2012.
And it’s not just a matter of time. Just this week, a student wrote:
Today, the center cooks between 1,400 and 2,000 lunches a day for seniors 60 to 98.
Today, the center cooks 1,400 to 2,000 lunches a day for seniors 60 to 98.
Here she didn’t need from. Why not save a word when you can? And notice how the age range is expressed: 60 to 98.
Ken Aragaki got it right the first time when he wrote:
In some parts of the South Bronx, Simone said, the price of a buildable square foot has doubled in the past year – $40 to 50 per square foot, from $25 to $26 last year.
Here from is not part of a from . . . to construction, but part of doubled . . . from.
Two students made the same related mistake in their stories:
In the Ivory Coast, ICCO’s data show, production of cocoa beans dropped 6 percent between 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Enrollment has increased roughly 43% between 2013 and 2014.
There was no year between 2010-11 and 2011-12, or between 2013 and 2014; they were consecutive. The sentences should have read:
In the Ivory Coast, ICCO’s data show, production of cocoa beans dropped 6 percent from 2010-11 to 2011-12.
Enrollment has increased roughly 43% from 2013 to 2014.
Bloom goes five times a week and stays between three and four hours.
Better: three to four hours. More conversationally: three or four hours.
Why did I choose between . . . and in my lede for this post? While this grammar point may gradually dawn on you from now to Dec. 19, there will (I hope) be one point in time between now and then when you will have mastered it. May it come before capstones are due.