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I can't figure out what the difference between thru and through is. I'm working on a text for a website. I described some process and used this sentence:

[...] when guiding the user through the order process.

Is that correct, or should I instead use the following sentence?

[...] when guiding the user thru the order process.

  • Use through in that context. In formal contexts, thru should be reserved for where space is at a premium, like on a street sign, or perhaps in a newspaper headline. More good reading on this subject can be found on ELU. – J.R. Jul 23 '13 at 23:38
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Thru and through are different spellings of the same word, although through is widely accepted as the more "normal" spelling:

The following NGram from the American English corpus, shows that even in US English, through has always been vastly more popular than thru.

enter image description here

Note that in British English, thru is widely considered incorrect, although it is a common shorthand for through in text messaging and instant messaging.

So in summary, when you see thru written, read it as through, but you should try to avoid using thru yourself except in very informal messaging with friends, as it is less popular, less formal and less widely accepted than through and you can always replace thru with through without loss of meaning.

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    +1. Thru is incorrect in AmE as well, though when used as shorthand in informal situations it is equally well understood. The only situation I'm aware of where "thru" is a popular/accepted spelling is in "drive-thru" (though that can be also written "drive-through"). – WendiKidd Jul 23 '13 at 20:42
  • @WendiKidd: I'm not sure about "incorrect" - certainly it's less than formal (OED lists it as a word but notes it is "chiefly North American"). I've seen people write of having "meetings 9 thru 5" and write "a contract running from Jun 1st thru August 17th", but only ever on the US side of the pond. – Matt Jul 23 '13 at 20:56
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Through and thru have the same meaning. They even sound the same. Thru is just a shortened version of through. The same way that you can, informally, use r instead of are.

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    Egads! I know what you're saying, but I don't see them on quite the same plane. While it's common to see THRU on street signs, I hope I never see a highway sign reading U R LEAVING COOK COUNTY or the like. – J.R. Jul 23 '13 at 23:34
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Thru is merely an informal spelling of through, in the same way gas is a North American informal short for gasoline.

As the Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd edition says, thru is chiefly North American.

  • It's definitely an Americanism. – Tristan Jul 23 '13 at 23:01
  • kiam, I'm not sure the parallel whit "gasoline" works. In fact, if you trim "gasoline" removing "oline" at the very end a word remain "gas"; but it is not the same for "through" because, I guess, "thru" means noting alone. – user114 Jul 23 '13 at 23:40
  • The parallelism is that both thru and gas are informal and North American English. – kiamlaluno Jul 24 '13 at 0:10
  • Thru is less acceptable than gas in most writing. – snailcar Jul 24 '13 at 0:19
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Thru is a variant spelling of through and, according to B.A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, it "should be shunned", even if it appears on street signs (NO THRU ROAD).

enter image description here

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    Signs often use abbreviations because it allows the letters to be bigger, and visibility and speed of reading is more important on signage for safety reasons than correct spelling or grammar. In the US we even have English-atrocities such as "Ped Xing" as shorthand for "Pedestrian Crossing" (mathpropress.com/stan/crossings/CrossingSigns/…), but once you've worked out what it means, it's faster to read at a distance (although I prefer the UK system of just having a picture). – Matt Jul 23 '13 at 23:47

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