Follow Up and Follow Through: What’s the Difference?

Let’s say you’re asked to follow through with your project, and you emailed every team member asking them for an update on the progress.

What happened here is that you confused follow-through for follow-up.  

Keep reading on to know the difference between these two seemingly similar phrases.

What is the difference between follow-up and follow-through?

It’s tempting to think of follow-up and follow-through as synonymous. In truth, they aren’t. Let’s start with:

Follow up

When you follow up, you reach out to another individual for an update.

It can be for an update on the ongoing project from a colleague. Or an update from the shipping company regarding your package’s delivery date and time.

To follow up means to reach out to someone and make a conversation. It doesn’t matter if you converse asynchronously or synchronously.

Follow up: examples

Example 1: You designated an important task to a colleague. Your colleague couldn't finish the task within the given deadline. So, you write a follow-up email asking them about the hold-up and when you can expect it.

Example 2: You just interviewed at your dream company. The interview went better than expected, and HR assured you you’d hear from them soon. But you didn’t. So, you called them for a follow-up.

Example 3: You are waiting for your colleague to send you the final draft of a report you need to present to your boss in a few days. The deadline is approaching, but you haven't received the draft yet.

You follow up by reaching out to your colleague and asking for an update on the report's progress. You offer to help if they need assistance to ensure that you can deliver the report on time.

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Follow through

When you follow through, you get something done.

Follow-through refers to the ability to carry out tasks and projects to their completion, no matter how challenging or daunting they may seem.

You might be working on a personal project, a professional goal, or even a promise you made to a friend or loved one. Following through is the key to achieving the results you desire.

Follow through: examples

Example 1: You promised your friend to start going to the gym. It’s been more than a month, but you’ve been avoiding the topic completely. One day, you decide to follow through on your promise and start going to the gym.

Example 2: You've fallen behind on your projects because you lack a specific skill. So, you follow through on improving this skill by enrolling in a training course or finding relevant resources.

Example 3: You were working on a long-term project and were facing obstacles and delays caused by other tasks. As the deadline started approaching, you created a detailed timeline, broke the project into manageable tasks, and set deadlines for each. You finally delivered the project on time by keeping your focus and following through.


Do you think you understand the difference between follow-up and follow-through well enough to answer a few questions?

Here’s a small fill-in-the-blank quiz to test your newly acquired knowledge!

Question 1: Hi James, I hear you are working on the SEO marketing project. How much time do you need to follow _____ with the project?

Question 2: Hi Tina, I wanted to follow _____ with you regarding the digital strategy you were supposed to share with me yesterday. Till when can I expect it from you?

Question 3: I followed _____ with my boss about the promotion I was promised. She said she would look into it and get back to me.

Question 4: Hi Karl, the project deadline is approaching fast, and the client seems very upset already. Do you need something from me to follow _____ and complete the project on time?

Question 5: I wanted to declutter my desk for a long time, but I kept procrastinating. Last Sunday, I decided to follow _____  and gave my desk a complete makeover.

In conclusion

Both follow-up and follow-through are different phrases with different meanings. While the former involves checking in or providing an update, the latter means taking responsibility, staying committed, and seeing things to the end.

By the way, here are the answers to the quiz -

  • Question 1: follow through
  • Question 2: follow up
  • Question 3: follow up
  • Question 4: follow through
  • Question 5: follow through

Did you get them all right?