Through or To

We deal with dates quite a bit when invoicing customers for our web hosting business. We just encountered an interesting language snafu and I thought it would be interesting to post for discussion.

A good example is the following:

January 1, 2008 to February 1, 2008.


January 1, 2008 through January 31, 2008.

Which is better? Each is technically one month of time. But the way you phrase it is important.

9 responses to “Through or To”

  1. “Count from 1 to 10.” You could argue that that is ambiguous, but you have to assume that it is _inclusive_ of 10, not _exclusive_ of it.

    “Get it done by January 31.” Even that phrasing is dangerous. By the letter of the law, it should be done by 12:01 AM on January 31, but don’t count on anyone assuming that. Instead, use January 30, or January 30 at 11:59 PM, or something like that.

    “Through” works though. 🙂

  2. I think through is a fairly clear thought when discussing dates.
    Counting from 1 to 10 is up to the number 10.0 not beyond to 10.5. Not terribly relative.
    The same could be said of being open from 9 to 5. You close at 5.

    I would say ‘through to February 1st’ or jan 31st that matter.

  3. Austin gets it.

    To simplify (or complicate?), if you tell someone that you had lunch from 1:00 to 2:00, that doesn’t mean you had a two hour lunch. “To” simply means “up until”. Your lunch ended right before the *beginning* of 2:00 (not at the end, 2:59). So… you only had a one hour lunch.

    In the same instance, if your hosting account is paid up from 01/01/2007 “to” 02/01/2007, that means “up until” the beginning of 02/01/2007. In other words, your hosting account would no longer be paid for the second the clock ticked 12:00 AM on 02/01/2007.

    Makes sense?

    I agree, though… simply saying “January 1, 2007 through January 31, 2007” could potentially be less confusing to people. It’s just a little harder to calculate the date range when making out bills (you have to keep a calendar handy so you know what the last day of the range was, and if you’re not careful, the start and end dates can creep around on you because some months are longer than others).

  4. I agree with Thomas (and Austin ;))

    Dallas to Phoenix (takes me to Phoenix, or 10.0, or lunch ends at 2)

    Dallas through Phoenix (takes me beyond Phoenix to some degree)

    What about “through to” with maybe some other determinate such as a time?

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