True and False Ranges
The combination from…to is often used to express a range of extremes, for example, “the prices ranged from $1 to $20.”
A “true range” requires a set of objects, persons, topics, or attributes in a limited set. Here are examples of the words from…to used to express measurable ranges:
McDowell Mountain Regional Park has more than 50 miles of hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails, ranging from easy to strenuous and ranging from 0.5 mile to 15.4 miles.
Childhood is the age span ranging from birth to adolescence.
[Carpenter ants] are large ants ranging in size from one-quarter inch for a worker ant to up to three-quarters inch for a queen.
The course in novel writing covered everything from outlining to publication.
Birth injuries range from mild to severe.
A “false range” links disparate items that do not belong in any kind of mutual set. For example:
The topics will range from current events in the world and community, to self-expression and topics chosen by the students.
The movie has everything from comedy to love.
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[My list of favorites] has everything from “Catholic High School Girls in Trouble” to “Zinc Oxide and You” to “A Fistful of Yen.”
Galileo’s offers everything from luscious wines to generous portions of your favorite Italian inspired food.
Festival has everything from a cake decorating to crocheted peanuts to jousting
Such use of false ranges is ubiquitous. The usage rarely causes confusion in the reader, but it does reflect lazy thinking.
Avoiding false ranges is easy.
If you are not writing about the extremes of a set–like money or ages, or steps in a process–don’t use the word range or the phrase “everything from…to…”
Instead, use other words or expressions:
The topics will encompass current events in the world and community, self-expression, and additional subjects chosen by the students.
The movie includes comedy and a love story.
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[My list of favorites] includes “Catholic High School Girls in Trouble,” “Zinc Oxide and You,” and “A Fistful of Yen.”
Galileo’s offers luscious wines and generous portions of your favorite Italian-inspired food.
Festival features a variety of competitions that include cake decorating, peanut crocheting, and jousting.
Note: The error of the false range is especially jarring when it contains more than two items: “[Joe’s Place] offers everything from pizza to rack of lamb, to potato pancakes, to meatloaf.”
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