Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

When you are writing anything in any language, it’s important to make sure that you are using the right words for the right meaning under the right context. The same is true when it comes to considering your sentence structure. Putting the right words in the right order is just as important as choosing the right words in the first place.

In previous Grammar 101 posts, I’ve discussed things like either/or vs. neither/nor and how certain word pairs should almost always be used together. That’s why it frustrates me when someone wants to provide a list, but opts to use the word “from” without following it up with “to.”

Consider this example:

I’ve visited many cities in Asia, from Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo and Taipei.

That’s an incorrect construction, because it’s an incomplete sentence. The “from” requires a “to” in order to complete the thought.

I’ve visited many cities in Asia, from Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo to Taipei.

That’s still wrong, because the from-to construction can’t really be used to denote a list in this fashion. Here are a couple of alternatives that are more acceptable:

I’ve visited many cities in Asia, from Hong Kong and Beijing to Tokyo and Taipei.

I’ve visited many cities in Asia, from Hong Kong to Beijing, Tokyo to Taipei.

These are different from a stylistic standpoint and some may argue that the connotation is different too, but they offer fundamentally the same meaning and they are constructed in an acceptable fashion. If you really prefer, though, it’s usually easier just to preface your list with “including.”

I’ve visited many cities in Asia, including Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, and Taipei.

There are many suitable alternatives to “including” as well. You could use “such as,” “like,” or even “among which are.” Your exact word choice could be affected by the context and by the “voice” that you are trying to achieve.

Just as there are certain complexities to be considered when you use inverted sentence structure, you also have to mindful of your construction when you use the from/to pairing in your sentences. It can be great for achieving a certain stylistic effect in all sorts of writing, from press releases to biographies. You just have to make sure you’re using it correctly.