Column: Climbing the corporate latter?


Do you want to work your way from the mailroom to the corner office? You’ve got gumption, kid, so leave it to me. I’ll give you some swell advice that’ll have you drinking gold-leafed martinis quicker than you can say “Scrooge McDuck doing the backstroke in a roomful of golden coins.”

First, we need to clear up the common confusion between latter, ladder and later.

A ladder is a thing your leaf butler climbs to clean out your gutters. It’s a tool with horizontal bars called “rungs” extending upward on affixed, parallel, vertical poles. I assume you understand this, so it’s time to move on.

Latter and later are a bit more confusing. Not only are the two words one “t” apart in spelling, but their meanings are similar enough to make this pair bewildering to many. “Later” is an adverb that means “after, or subsequent to, the present time.” For example:

I planted some marigold seeds in my window planter box. A few weeks later, I had bright orange flowers blooming.

Latter is an adjective that means “happening at or toward the end of an activity.” It also indicates the second of two things or people that were previously mentioned. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Here T.J. uses “latter” to refer to his preference for the second option—newspapers without a government.

Given the option between a Nickelback CD or a Labradoodle puppy, all of your coworkers would prefer the latter as a birthday present. Don’t be the lady who gives Nickelback CDs to people for their birthdays; instead, be the puppy-giving coworker.

Furthermore, don’t show up for a meeting later than the posted time. Instead, get there five minutes early. Bosses appreciate promptness, which is a sign of respect for their time. Also, if you offer your boss an unopened pack of Skittles, he’ll likely love you forever and promote you sooner rather than later.

When it comes to climbing the corporate ladder, these tips can get you far toward your goal. In addition, having good grammar will make you more popular than the lady who gives out hypoallergenic birthday puppies.