Word Confusion: Ladder vs Later vs Latter

Posted August 18, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

This word confusion truly is all over the place, with writers confusing ladder for latter. I don’t care if they sound alike! Those writers who also manage to get confused with later and latter also need to be aware of those differences. ‘Cause it does. Make a difference, I mean.

You can use a ladder to climb up out of the morass — a case of the former clearing you out of the latter. But that’s a thought for a later date.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Ladder Later Latter
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Illustration for section x3 in Encyclopedia of Needlework. Fig. 57 Ladder Hem-stitch

“Ladder Hem-stitch” by Thérèse de Dillmont (1846-1890) is in the public domain through the auspices of Gutenberg.org, via Wikimedia Commons

The ladder stitch only looks complicated.

Albert Einstein's head of shocky white hair

“Albert Einstein Head” by photographer Orren Jack Turner, Princeton, N.J. was modified with Photoshop by PM_Poon and later by Dantadd. It is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In his later years, Einstein’s hair went white.

Before and after of Ellen DeGeneres

“Dr. Oz’s hidden Hollywood secret” courtesy of TranquilOceans

The former is the before while the latter (and larger) photo shows the results of Dr. Oz’s regimen*.

No, I’m not endorsing this.

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: ladders
Past tense or past participle: laddered
Gerund or present participle: laddering

Adjective 1; Adverb 2; Combined Form 3; Exclamation Adjective, attributive
A structure consisting of a series of bars or steps between two upright lengths of wood, metal, or rope, used for climbing up or down something

  • A series of ascending stages by which someone or something may advance or progress

[British; in tights or stockings] A run

Anything resembling a ladder

Verb, intransitive:
[Chiefly British] To get a run, as in a stocking

To gain in popularity or importance

Verb, transitive:
To climb or mount by means of a ladder

To furnish with a ladder

[Chiefly British] To cause a run in a stocking

Comparative of late

Comparative of late

Afterward, subsequently, or at a time in the future (sometimes followed by on)

Combined Form:
Denoting a person who worships a specified thing

[Informal] Goodbye for the present

[The latter] The second-mentioned of two people or things

Situated or occurring nearer to the end of something than to the beginning

  • Recent
Be careful climbing that ladder.

She bought a useful ladder that was lightweight and folded up easily.

He’s one of the employees on their way up the career ladder.

It’s a pile of laddered stockings I’m saving to use for crafting doll faces.

We’ll need to get an extension ladder to reach up that high.

She’s determined to climb the social ladder.

Pamela got a ladder in her stocking.

Use a ladder stitch to create an interesting peekaboo effect.

Verb, intransitive:
My damn stocking laddered again.

Once Dr. Mesan refined the formula, he laddered to the top.

Verb, transitive:
The troops laddered the wall and broke the siege.

It’d be practical to ladder that water tower.

That nail laddered my stocking.

Her later years were not happy.

In his later years, he had kicked the heroin and cleaned up his act.

It’s later than you think.

Sooner or later she’ll have to decide.

The meeting ran later than we expected.

She later said she was sorry.

I’ll see you later.

Let’s decide about this later on.

Combined Form:
The man’s a filthy idolater.

See you later.

Call me later.

Later, baby.

It took place in the latter half of 1989.

Heart disease dogged his latter years.

The project had low cash flows in its latter years.

The Russians could advance into either Germany or Austria — they chose the latter option.

Adjective: ladderless, ladderlike, laddery Adjective: late, latter, latest, Adjective: latter-day
Adverb: latterly
History of the Word:
Old English hlæd(d)er is of West Germanic origin and related to the Dutch leer and German Leiter. Old English læt1 in the sense of slow, tardy and late2 are of Germanic origin and related to the German lass, from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin lassus meaning weary.

3 From the Greek -latrēs meaning worshiper.

Old English lætra meaning slower and comparative of læt.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits:

This photo of the “The Gilbert Arizona Temple” of the Latter-day Saints is from the official viewing area at the construction site while the latter is from another angle.

Both photos are by Argon233 and are under the the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, via Wikimedia Commons.