usingtherightwords

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“Fewer” Times Do People Misuse “Less”


I don’t think my headline is true. Otherwise, why would I use it?

I also am not sure I use fewer and less correctly. I use these words so interchangeably, and I wasn’t aware of any such rule. When I looked up fewer in my dictionary, its definition was “a smaller number of persons or things.” It  also said to see less for a usage explanation.

My dictionary’s definition of less: “constituting a more limited number.” So, it seemed to me that fewer is more specific and less more general.

To sum up what my dictionary said about less: Use less with matters of degree, value or amount, and use fewer for numbers and plural nouns. My Associated Press stylebook says basically the same thing: Use less for bulk or quantity and use fewer for individual items.

So, the following two sentences are correct: She had less than $50 in her pocket. He had fewer than 50 $1 bills in his pocket.

It seems like a fine line exists, but it’s clearly drawn.

I’ll need to watch myself to see if I’m misusing less and fewer. You should, too.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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June 28, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

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    Comment by dedicated | December 12, 2012 | Reply


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