Although the phrase the above is not exactly incorrect, should it be avoided?

For example, imagine a letter with a heading "Re: Order for 79 purple cardboard slugs". Should a paragraph in the letter say "your order should be ready in three fortnights" or "the above order should be ready in three fortnights"?

Personally, I would tend to avoid the above, but is there any rule on this?

  • 3
    Yes, many people object to above used as a noun. But why in the world is this tagged “british-english”?
    – tchrist
    Mar 14, 2013 at 15:49
  • 2
    British, because Americans would never say "three fortnights".
    – GEdgar
    Mar 14, 2013 at 18:33
  • Only in case the usage is different on either side of the Pond.
    – user39556
    Mar 15, 2013 at 14:51

3 Answers 3


"The above" is ambiguous and can be easily misinterpreted. Unless you are explicit with what you are referring to you leave your readers open to confusion.

If you're still not convinced, see the question similar to this one, on the right.

The only time such phrasing could be used effectively is if the item in question was directly referred to in the sentence/bullet point directly preceding that one. Even then, it would be redundant.

  • If the "question similar to this one" is important, you may want to include a link. It was not obvious to me which of the questions that came up in the Related questions box might be the one you meant (I am not sure if different questions may be displayed by the system either, on different views of the page).
    – aedia λ
    Mar 14, 2013 at 17:02
  • 1
    @aediaλ That was precisely the point I was trying to make. "On the right" is ambiguous, similar to "the above".
    – n00b
    Mar 14, 2013 at 19:09
  • Sorry, I guess the above point went right over my head.
    – aedia λ
    Mar 15, 2013 at 15:24

In any case where it's used to prevent ambiguity, there's no reason to avoid the phrase “the above”. In the example mentioned in question, where only one order is in view and “the above” is not vital, leave it out if you feel like, or include it if you like. In general brevity is good, but if avoiding the phrase requires additional varieties of a seller's little-read form letter, then avoiding it isn't worth the trouble.


I would say it is fine to use but is less formal.

For example, you would use

None of the above

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