Using the words former and latter in a sentence can help you avoid repetition, but should only be used when referring to two previously listed things. Former refers to the first point mentioned and latter refers to the second. The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis explains that these words should be avoided if it makes the sentence unclear.
Some examples are below:
I like drinking normal tea and herbal tea – the latter helps me reduce my caffeine intake.
Explanation: The word ‘latter’ is referring to the second point mentioned which is ‘herbal teas’. If I had used the word ‘former’ in the second part of the sentence, I would have been referring to normal tea.
Experts say that exercise and meditation are good for your wellbeing; the former is something I do for at least 10 minutes of every day.
Explanation: The word ‘former’ refers to the first point in the previous sentence – exercise.
If I had a choice of getting a new television or going on a weekend spa break, I think I’d choose the latter.
Explanation: ‘Latter’ in this case is referring to the second point – spa break.
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The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis (Penguin Reference Library)
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