Posted by: episystechpubs | June 28, 2018

Editor’s Corner: More About “Fewer” and “Less”

Recently, I included the word pair “fewer and less” in an article about misused phrases. My advice was to use “fewer” for things you can count (like 140 characters) and “less” for things you cannot count (like love).

Ron H. replied with a very good question. He asked if fewer is really correct in this example:

  • Your training session should last fewer than 60 minutes.

The quick answer is no. Ron’s instincts are correct. There is more to that rule than I originally stated. With English, there is always more to the grammar rule!

The full rule states that time, money, distance, and weight are exceptions to the “if you can count it” rule.

Many of you, like Ron, probably know this instinctively, but I think it will help to provide examples. The following sentences correctly use “less” instead of “fewer” for things you can count:

Time: I can run a mile in less than 10 minutes. (Don’t laugh.)

Money: His new car cost less than $30,000.

Distance: My brother lives less than 20 miles away from me.

Weight: I weigh about 75 pounds less than my big brother.

For all other discussions of about having fewer or less of something, stick with the original rule: use “fewer” for things you can count (like the number of dogs you have) and “less” for things you cannot count (like the joy your dogs bring).

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432


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