An editor’s job is to find fault, although always for a positive outcome. The goal, of course, is to create less confusion for readers by leaving fewer errors in place upon publication.
How can a wordsmith tell when to use “fewer” and when to write “less”?
This is one of my personal pet peeves. It’s all about word choice.
Both words point to smaller size or quantity. However, “fewer” fits for items that may be actually counted. “Less” goes with things that cannot.
Here are a few correct examples.
Wendy Writer wanted to make fewer grammatical errors, but Penny Proofreader just hoped to see less sloppy writing.
The librarian planned for less work, discarding piles of periodicals, in the hopes of shelving fewer magazines at the end of each day.
Dieting is simple, but difficult. Eat fewer calories to gain less weight.
Dina dined on fewer fries than Daniel, as her carbohydrate craving was considerably less than his.
Of course, the English language is notorious for notable exceptions to nearly every grammatical rule. Writers may correctly use the word “less” to refer to amounts of money or mileage.
Dale spent less than 40 dollars on that dress. What a find!
Dylan drives less than three miles to work daily.
Feel free to follow on GooglePlus and Twitter. You are also invited to join this writer's fan page, as well as the Chicago Etiquette Examiner, Madison Holidays Examiner, Equestrian Examiner and Madison Equestrian Examiner on Facebook.
- DIY Computer Repairs: Waging My Own War on Alien Invaders
- Idioms Unpacked: Eat Your Words
- Sticks and Stones - a Poetic Turn on Words that Burn
- Writing Wisdom - My Top 24 Favorite Quotations on Writing
From: Sam Loyd’s Cyclopedia of Puzzles
2012 A to Z Blogging Challenge logo