Some word confusions are understandable, especially if they sound the same when spoken. We call those homophones, and they sound the same even if they are spelt differently. Examples are peak/pique/peak or there/their/they’re.
The confusion between ’then’ and ’than’, however, is a completely different matter.
Sadly, this is happening more and more, especially on social media. I don’t even spend that much time on Facebook, but it feels like I see someone saying something like “Nothing is better then this!” or “I love you more then anything!” at least twice a day.
Yes, they are similar.
However, they are clearly not the same.
They don’t look the same.
They don’t sound the same.
If one doesn’t mix up ’then’ or ’than’ with ’thin’, there is no excuse for mistaking them for one another.
I swear, it makes my eyes want to bleed.
The two words’ meanings are so vastly different that getting them wrong just makes the person writing look either poorly educated or plain stupid, even if they are neither.
This is one of the best and most self-evident arguments in existence for proofreading what one is writing, anywhere and every time.
‘Then’ rhymes with ‘when”— which is an easy way to remember that it relates to time or sequence.
He put on his shirt, then his jeans, and then his boots.
She ran up the hill, then back down again.
When you have tidied your room, then you can go to the movies.
‘Than’ rhymes with ‘man’ and is used for making a comparison.
His piece of pizza is bigger than mine.
A triangle has fewer angles than a square.
I would rather stay home and read a book than go to work.
Knowing which is which, and taking care to use the right words all the time, is a simple way to protect your credibility.
And for the love of Merlin’s beard, if you call yourself an author or a teacher, get it right. It’s not that hard.