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Write the Right Word: In vs. Within

Despite common usage, “in” and “within” shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

“In” describes the location of a person, animal or thing. For example, you would say: “The stray cows were found in the corn field” or “Oak and elm trees are common in North Dakota forests,” NOT “The stray cows were found within the corn field” or “Oak and elm trees are common within North Dakota forests.”

“Within” implies a sense of limits on something. Thus, you would say: “You must complete this test within 30 minutes.” This indicates you can’t take more than 30 minutes to complete the test, but you can take less time.

“In” also can be used in a time sense, but it indicates a certain activity will take a specific amount of time. For example: “I can walk around the block in five minutes.”

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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