Contrasting Different From vs. Different Than

Sometimes writers struggle over which of these two phrases to use. One definitely is better than the other – usually.

Different from means “to contrast two things.” For example, if you wanted to show how one football team is strikingly dissimilar to another team, you might write The Los Angeles Rams play an offensive scheme that is different from the New York Giants.

Different than also means “to contrast”; the two words in the phrase often are split, as in Steve took a different approach to his science project than Mike did.

Traditionally, most editors prefer different from over different than if only because the latter phrase is split. Because of this, different from is far common in writing than different than. Sometimes though, different than actually results in a shorter, more clear sentence. For example, if the above example sentence for different than were written with different from, it would read as, Steve took an approach to his science project different from that used by Mike.

I recommend using different from, but in cases where you can avoid clunky sentences, go with different than.